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C.B., C.M.G., R.E. (Retired), p.s.c. 


R.A. (Retired), Hon. M.A. (Oxon.) 

\ - C^- J 





First Edition 1922 

Second Edition 1925 

Reprinted 1926, 1928 

Third Edition 1933 

ReprirUed 1937 

5 30 



Since the original edition was compiled in 1920-21, the 
battlefields of 1914 have been visited by many parties of 
British officers, and much interesting information has been 
elicited on the ground. The volumes of the French and 
German official histories dealing with the period, besides 
numerous regimental histories, French, German and British, 
have been issued.^ It was therefore thought desirable to 
carry out a thorough revision of the text, particularly as 
the portions of the original dealing with the French and 
German forces had been pieced together from various un- 
official books, and were by no means complete. The maps 
and sketches have been revised accordingly, and some new 
ones added, notably a layered map of the Marne battlefield. 
No such revision of the other published volumes of the 
history will be necessary. 

The opportunity has been taken to give in greater 
detail the information obtained during open warfare by the 
Royal Flying Corps ; for in the first volume of the official 
history " The War in the Air," the late Sir Walter Raleigh 
did not include sufficient for the purposes of military 
study. Further particulars also have been given of the 
destruction of bridges during the retreat : the work of 
collecting information from survivors was undertaken by 
Major-General Sir Reginald Buckland, Chief Engineer of 
the Fourth Army of the B.E.F., and occupied him two 
years — which gives some idea of the labour involved in 
this kind of work. A summary of his investigations was 
published in the Journal of the Royal Engineers. 

J. E. E. 

August 1933. 

* The German Warne volume in 1926, the French Marne volume in 



This history has been compiled with the purpose of pro- 
viding within reasonable compass an authoritative account, 
suitable for general readers and for students at military 
schools, of the operations of the British Army in the 
Western theatre of war in 1914-1918. It is based on the 
British official records. 

The present volume covers events from mobilization 
up to the middle of October 1914 only, a period of two 
and a half months, and is on a scale which to a large 
extent treats the battalion, squadron and battery records 
as the basis of the story. In succeeding volumes it will 
not be possible or desirable to adhere to this, and succes- 
sively the brigade, division and even corps may become 
the unit of narrative. For this volume the scale adopted 
seems appropriate, in view of the importance of small 
units in the early operations, of the lessons to be derived 
from the study of the work of these units in open warfare, 
and of the desirability of leaving a picture of what war 
was Hke in 1914, when trained soldiers were still of greater 
importance than material, and gas, tanks, long-range guns, 
creeping barrages and the participation of aircraft in 
ground fighting were unknown. 

The mass of documents to be dealt with was very 
great, and the difficulty has been not in obtaining in- 
formation, but in compressing and cutting down what was 
available. The British records comprise not only the 
war diaries of every staff and unit engaged, with their 
voluminous appendices containing all orders, intelligence, 



etc., received and issued, and detailed reports of actions, 
but they include also the General Headquarters files, the 
Commander-in-Chief's diary, and practically every telegram 
and message despatched and received. These official 
documents have been supplemented by private diaries 
and papers which have been kindly lent, by regimental 
records, and by interviews with officers who took part in 
the operations. 

On a modern battlefield, however, knowledge of events 
is extraordinarily local, and the transmission of informa- 
tion difficult ; in addition important witnesses only too 
often become casualties. Though written orders and 
messages are absolutely reliable evidence of the matters 
with which they deal, war diaries and reports of actions, 
written up immediately after events, are liable to contain 
mistakes. Commanders and staffs are naturally more 
concerned in finding out and reporting the exact situation 
and condition of their troops and of the enemy, in sending 
up reinforcements, ammunition and supplies, and recording 
experience for future use than in the collection of historical 
matter. In fact, even officers well known to be specially 
interested in military history have confessed that during 
the war the idea of collecting or keeping material for its 
future historian never occurred to them. Many incidents 
deserving of record may therefore have escaped notice. 
It will greatly assist in the compilation of monographs or 
of a fuller official history in years to come, if readers who 
can supply further information or corrections will com- 
municate with the Secretary of the Historical Section, 
Committee of Imperial Defence, 2 Whitehall Gardens, 
London, S.W.I. 

The text and maps now presented are the result of the 
co-operative labours of the staff, past and present, of the 
Historical Section, Military Branch,^ which, in collabora- 
tion with the Disposal of Records Department, War Office, 
is also charged with the sorting and arrangement of the 

1 Special assistance in compiling this volume has been rendered by 
Major A. F. Becke, Major F. W. Tomlinson, Captain G. C. Wynne and 
Mr. E. A. Dixon. 


records dealing with operations overseas. This latter part 
of its work absorbed most of its energy and time until well 
on into 1921. The Branch did not obtain a permanent 
home until October 1919 ; thus a large amount of im- 
portant material did not become available until it was 
unpacked and sorted after this date, and it was then found 
necessary to re-write an account of the initial operations 
already partly drafted. 

The British Expeditionary Force in France in 1914 
was not acting independently, and formed only a small 
part of the Allied Armies engaged ; it has therefore been 
necessary to include an account of the action of the French 
and Belgian forces sufficient to provide a proper frame- 
work for the British operations. As regards the Belgian 
Army, ample material for this purpose has been published 
by the Belgian General Staff. The French General Staff 
has not yet issued any history, but much information 
with regard to the French plans and operations has 
already been made public : officially in the reports of 
Parliamentary Enquiries, semi-officially by historians like 
M. Hanotaux, M. Engerand, M. Madelin and General 
Palat {Pierre Lehautcourt), and in the form of reminiscences 
and memoirs by actual participants, such as Generals 
Lanrezac, Gallieni, Dubail and Mangin. It was not, 
therefore, thought necessary to trouble the French General 
Staff except as regards the incident of the assistance 
rendered by General Sordet's Cavalry Corps at the battle 
of Le Cateau, when a copy of the war diary of the troops 
concerned was very courteously furnished. With this 
exception, it must be understood that for the French 
operations the only absolutely authoritative statements 
quoted are the orders, instructions, intelligence reports, 
etc., received officially by G.H.Q. from the French Grand 
Quartier General. 

The published German accounts of the early part of 
the war are very numerous, and they deal both with the 
decisions and orders of the higher commanders and the 
operations of many corps and even smaller fighting units. 
The most notable are the books of the three Army com- 


manders, von Kluck, von Biilow and von Hansen, the 
General Staff monographs "Liittich-Namur " and "Mons," 
the official list of battles and engagements, with the 
names of the formations, etc., present, entitled " Schlachten 
und Gefechte," and the stories of participants like General 
von Zwehl, General von Kuhl, Hauptmann Bloem (the 
novelist) and Hofprediger Vogel.^ It was originally in- 
tended to give the accounts derived from German sources 
in the form of notes at the end of each Chapter ; but, after 
consideration, it was decided that such an arrangement 
might prove inconvenient, and that it was better as a 
general rule to include them in the body of the Chapters, 
as close as possible to the events in the British narra- 
tive to which they refer. This arrangement, in view 
of the difference of the character of the material, has 
naturally caused breaks in the style and scope of the 
story, but it makes the comparison of the two accounts 

General Freiherr Mertz von Quirheim, the Director of 
the German Reich sarchiv, Berlin, which has custody of 
the war records, has been good enough to furnish material 
in order to clear up a few points on which there seemed 
insufficient information. 

As separate histories of the Royal Air Force and the 
Medical Services are being compiled, a detailed account 
of their work has not been included in the narrative. 

Two sets of maps have been prepared. The one, 
distinguished by the word " Sketches," sufficient for the 
general reader, is bound in the volume ; the other, intended 
for the use of students of war, is issued separately. Except 
the situation maps for the battle of the Aisne, which are 
taken from the originals, the maps have been compiled 
from data and sketches in the war diaries or furnished 
by officers, or from French and German publications. 

The typescript or proof sheets have been read by a 
number of commanders and staff and regimental officers 
who took part in the events narrated, and the compiler 
has been greatly assisted by their advice and criticism, 

1 See List of Books, pp. xxv-xxix. 


for which he tenders them his most sincere thanks. He 
is specially grateful to Mr. C. T. Atkinson, his predecessor 
in charge of the Branch, for advice and help at all times, 
■which his intimate knowledge of the records made most 
valuable ; and both to him and to Mr. W. B. Wood, 
the partner in the compilation of a book on an earlier 
war, for the reading and correction of the proof sheets. 

J. E. E. 

April 1922. 

Issued with " 1918 " Vol. III. 

ADDENDUM TO " 1914 " Vol. I (1933 Edition) 

Page 280, penultimate line. After '" further south " add new footnote : 

"■ It is now accepted in France that the British retirement 
on the night of the 4th/5th September was in accordance 
with the instructions from General Joffre in force at the 
time and not a ' derobade '. See ' Joffre et GalUeni a la 
Marne ', pp. 65-7, by Capitaine P. Lyet, published in 1938 
by the ' Service Historique ' of the French General Staff 
with a preface by General Gamelin, Chief of the General Staff 
of National Defence, who was one of General Joffre's General 
Staff officers at the time of the Battle of the Marne 1914." 


over to France to be ' butchered by Haig ', while Lord 
French refused to agree to the removal of a single man from 
England. ' Life and Letters of Lord Wester- Wemyss,' by 
Lady Wester- Wemyss, p. 375." * 

Page 473, footnote 2. Add : 

"General Debeney in his ' La Guerre et les hommes ', 
p. 25, says the French sector taken over by General Gough 
was ' jeune ', and continues, ' ce secteur etant moins bien 
fortifie . . . toutes les " jeunes " organisations aussi bien 
les Allemandes que les alliees ont saute comme bouchons de 
champagne sous Teftort des materiels de 1918 '." 

Page 493. At bottom of page add : 

" German Casualties. 
" Colonel and Divisional Commander Bircher, of the Swiss 
Army, who is generally well informed about German matters, 
states in his ' Krieg ohne Gnade ', p. 207 : ' Losses of the 
Germans (21st March until end of April) in the Operation 

308,000 killed and wounded '." 

Page 498. VII. Corps table, after "11 Aus. Brigades." add : 

" 4th AustraUan Division (Major- General E. G. Sinclair- 
MacLagan) : 

12 Aus., 13 Aus. Brigades. 
From 8 a.m. 29th March : 
15th Australian Brigade (5th Australian Division)."" 

Page 499, lines 12-14. Delete " 4th Australian Division ... 13 Aus. 
Brigades." and substitute "■ 4th Austrahan Brigade (4th 
Australian Division)." 

Page 523, paragraph (c). After " ammunition supply." add in parentheses: 
" (The four batteries of 12-inch howitzers on railway mount- 
ings were, however, kept in action with the co-operation of 
the 109th Railway Company R.E.) ". 


The locations of troops and places are given from right to 
left of the front of the Allied Forces, unless otherwise 
stated. Thus, even in the retreat to the Seine they are 
described from east to west. In translations of German 
orders they are left as in the original, but otherwise 
enemy troops are enumerated in relation to the British 

The convention observed in the British Expeditionary 
Force is followed as regards the distinguishing numbers 
of Armies, Corps, Divisions, etc., of the British and Allied 
Armies, e.g., they are written in full for Armies, but in 
Roman figures for Corps, and in Arabic for smaller forma- 
tions and units, except Artillery Brigades, which are 
Roman ; thus : Fourth Army, IV. Corps, 4th Division, 
4th Infantry Brigade, 4th Cavalry Brigade, IV. Brigade, 

German formations and units, to distinguish them 
clearly from the Allies, are printed in italic characters, 
thus : First Army, I. Corps, 1st Division. 

The usual Army, and sometimes the Army List, 
abbreviations of regimental names have been used in the 
narrative ; for example, " 2/R. West Kent " or " West 
Kents" for 2nd Battalion The Queen's Own (Royal West 
Kent Regiment) ; " the Somerset " or " Somerset L.I." for 
The Somerset Light Infantry ; K.O.Y.L.I. for the King's 
Own Yorkshire Light Infantry ; K.R.R.C. for The 
King's Royal Rifle Corps. To avoid constant repetition, 
the " Royal " in regimental titles is often omitted : for 
instance, the Royal Warwickshire are called " the War- 

Abbreviations employed occasionally are : — 
G.H.Q. for British General Headquarters. 
G.Q.G. for French Grand Quartier General (usually spoken 
as " Grand Q.G."). 


O.II.L. for German Oherste Heeresleitung (German Supreme 
Command). N .B. — "G.H.Q." in German means 
Grosses Haupt-Quartier, that is the Kaiser's 
Headquarters, pohtical, mihtary and naval, as 
distinguished from O.H.L. 
OfTieers are described by the rank which they held at 
the period under consideration. 

The accents in French and Belgian place names well 
known to British troops have been omitted. 

The meaning of Reserve, Ersatz, Landwehr as applied 
to German formations is explained on pp. 21, 22. Of other 
German terms used, Jdger and Schuizen both signify 
riflemen formed in special battalions ; Abteilung means 
a group of three batteries of artillery ; a German artillery 
brigade consists of two regiments each of two or three 

Pioniere : are the German field Engineers ; the word 
cannot well be translated by " Engineers " or " Pioneers," 
as the men in the Pioniere units, although thc}'^ have a 
thorough training in field engineering, are not tradesmen 
of the class found in R.E. Companies, and are only employed 
on field duties : besides, in Germany there was an " In- 
genieur Korps," which had duties in the construction and 
maintenance of fortresses. 

Time in German narratives and orders, which in the 
period dealt with was one hour earlier than British, has 
been corrected to our standard, unless it is specified 
" German time." 

* Abteilung also means a mounted machine-gun battery with cavalry, as 
opposed to the M.G. Kompagnie, which forms part of an infantry regiment 
or Jdger battalion. 




The Armies of the Western Allied Forces : 

Great Britain ..,.,.. 1 

France ........ 14 

Belgium ........ 18 

Germany ........ 20 


The Outbreak of War ...... 23 

Progress of Events ...... 31 

The British Entry into France . . . .48 

Notes : I. Alleged German Troop Movements before Mobiliza- 
tion . . . . . . .54 

II. The Sehlieffen Plan 56 


22nd August 1914 : 

First Contact with the Enemy . . . .62 

Note : German Uncertainty as to the Position of the B.E.F. . 68 


The Battle of Mons, 23rd August . . . .71 

Note : The German Account of Mons . . . .94 


The Retreat from Mons and Action of Elouges, 24th 

August ....... 96 

Notes : I. German Movements on the 24th August . .114 

II. Operations of the French Troops on the British Left, 

20th-24th August . . . . .116 

XV b 



The Rktreat (continued), 27th-28th August : 

Smith-Dorrien's Force ..... 

Haig's I. Corps ...... 

General Situation, Night 28th/29th August . 
Notes : I. ^Movements of the German First and Second Armies 
after Le Cateau .... 

II. Movements of the French Fifth Army from Charle 
roi to Guise .... 

III. General Joffre's Congratulatory Telegram . 

IV. British Losses, 23rd-27th August 


The Rktreat from Mons (continued), 25th August . 118 

Notes : I. Movements of the German First and Second Armies, 

23rd-25th August . . . . .129 

II. Movements of General Valabregue's Group of Reserve 

divisions, on British Right, 21st-25th August . 131 


The Retreat from Mons (continued), Evening and Night 
OF 25Tn/26TH August : 
Maroilles and Landrecies ; Solesmes . . . 132 

Notes : I. Movements of the German First Army on 25th 

August . . . . . .149 

II. First Belgian Sortie from Antwerp, 24th, 25th, 

26th August . . . . .151 


The Battle of Le Cateau, 26th August. Dawn till Noon 152 
Note : German Plans for the 26th August . . .169 


The Battle of Le Cateau, 26th August (continued). 

Noon to 5 p.m. ...... 171 


The Close of the Battle of Le Cateau, 26th August. 

5 P.M. TO Nightfall ..... 186 

The Retreat from the Battlefield .... 197 

The I. Corps on the 26th August .... 200 

Notes : I. German Accounts of Le Cateau . . . 204 

II. General d'Amade's Force on the British Left, 26th 

August ...... 210 









The Retreat (continued), 29tii-31st August : 

29th August ....... 239 

30th August ....... 242 

31st August ....... 246 

Notes : I. Movements of the German First and Second Armies, 

29th-31st August . . . . .250 

II. The Battle of Guise, 29th-30th August . . 252 


The Retreat (continued), 1st September : 

The Fight at Nery . . . . . .255 

The Rear-guard Action of Crepy en Valois . . . 259 

The Rear-guard Actions of Villers Cotterets . . 260 

Notes : I. German Movements on 1st September . . 265 

II. The Army of Paris . . . . .267 


The Last Stages of the Retreat, 2nd-5th September . 268 
Notes : I. Operations of the German First and Second Armies, 

2nd-5th September . . . .287 

II. The Genesis of the Battle of the Marne . . 293 


The Battle of the Marne : 

6th September : The Return to the Offensive . . 295 

The French on the 6th September .... 302 

Notes : I. The German Right Wing on the 6th September . 304 
II. The Despatch of General Joffre's Order for the 

Battle of the Marne .... 306 


The Battle of the Marne (continued) : 

7th September : The March to the Grand Morin . . 308 

The French on the 7th September . . . .313 

Note : The German Right Wing on the 7th September . .315 


The Battle of the Marne (continued) : 

8th September : The Forcing of the Petit Morin . .318 

The French on the 8th September .... 326 

Note : The German Right Wing on the 8th September . . 328 




The Battle of the Marne (concluded) : 

9th September : The Passage of the Marne and the Retreat 

of the Germans ...... 332 

The French on the 9th September .... 344 

Notes : I. The German Right Wing on the 9th September . 347 
II. Tlie Second Belgian Sortie from Antwerp, 9th-13th 

September . ..... 356 


The Pursuit to the Aisne, 10th-12th September : 

10th September ...... 358 

The French on the 10th September .... 364 

11th September : The Inchne to the North-East . . 364 

Tlie French on the 11th September .... 366 

12th September : The Advance to the Aisne . . 366 

The French on the 12th September .... 372 

Note : The German Retirement from the Battle of the Marne 373 


The Battle of the Aisne, 13th September : 

The Passage of the Aisne ..... 377 

The French on the 13th September .... 391 

Note : The 13th September on the German Side . . 392 


The Battle of the Aisne (continued) : 

14th September : The Fight for the Chemin des Dames . 395 

The French on the 14th September .... 418 

15th September : The Deadlock .... 419 

The French on the 15th September .... 422 

Note : The 14th-15th September on the German Side . . 423 


Last Days on the Aisne : J 

General Situation ...... 428 ' 

Operations on the Aisne ..... 439 

Note : The German Strategy during the Battle of the Aisne . 453 J 


The " Race to the Sea " and the Transfer of the B.E.F. 

to Flanders ...... 456 













Order of Battle of the British Expeditionary Force, 
August and September 1914 .... 

Notes on the organization of some of the principal forma- 
tions and units of the British Expeditionary Force in 
1914 ....... 

Order of Battle of the French Armies in August 1914 

Notes on the organization of some of the principal French 
formations and units in 1914 

Order of Battle of the Belgian Army in August 1914 

Order of Battle of the German Armies in August 1914 

Notes on the organization of some of the principal German 
formations and units in 1914 

Instructions to Sir John French from Earl Kitchener 
August 1914 ...... 

The French plan of campaign, Plan 17 (translation) 

Sir John French's Operation Order No. 5, 1 p.m. 20th 
August 1914 (with march table and allotment of 
Army troops) ...... 

Sir John French's Operation Order No. 6, 11.55 p.m. 
21st August 1914 ...... 

Sir John French's supplementary instruction to Cavalry 
Division, 11.35 p.m. 21st August 1914 

Sir John French's Operation Order No. 7, 8.25 p.m. 
24th August 1914 

Sir John French's Operation 
25th August 1914 

4th Division Operation Order 
1914 . 

II. Corps Operation Order No 
1914 . 

Sir John French's Operation 
27th August 1914 

Sir John French's Operation 
28th August 1914 

Sir John French's Operation 
August 1914 . 

Sir John French's Operation 
30th August 1914 . 

Sir John French's Operation 
31st Auarust 1914 

Order No. 8, 7.30 p.m. 
No. 1, 5 P.M. 25th August 
, 6, 10.15 P.M. 25th August 
Order No. 9, 8.30 p.m. 
Order No. 10, 11.30 p.m. 
Order No. 11, 9 p.m. 29th 
Order No. 12, 5,15 p.m. 

• • • • 

Order No. 13, 8.50 p.m. 

G.H.Q. messages to I. Corps anticipating and confirming 
order to retire, 1st September 1914 









23. Correspondence with regard to halting on the Marne and 

the retreat behind the Seine (translation) . . 530 

24. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 14, 7.30 p.m. 

2nd September 1914 . . . . .533 

25. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 15, 11.50 p.m. 

3rd September 1914 . . . . . .535 

26. Le General Commandant en Chef au Field Marechal Sir 

John French, Commandant en Chef les forces Britan- 
niques, 4th September 1914 .... 537 

27. Letter of Sir John French to Earl Kitchener, 7th September 

1914 ........ 538 

28. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 16, 6.35 p.m. 

4th September 1914 ...... 540 

29. Table giving length of daily marches (in miles) from 20th 

August to 5th September (both inclusive) . . 542 

30. General Joffre's Instruction for the battle of the Marne 

(translation) ....... 543 

31. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 17, 5.15 p.m. 

5th September 1914 ...... 545 

32. Cavalry Division Operation Order No. 11, 5th September 

1914 (with march table) ..... 547 

33. I. Corps Operation Order No. 10, 5th September 1914 . 548 

34. II. Corps Operation Order No. 15, 5th September 1914 . 549 

35. III. Corps Operation Order No. 7, 5th September 1914 . 551 

36. Sir John French's Special Order of the Day, 6th September 

1914 ........ 552 

37. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 18, 9 f.m. 7th 

September 1914 ...... 553 

38. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 19, 7.30 p.m. 

8th September 1914 ...... 555 

39. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 20, 8.15 p.m. 

9th September 1914 ...... 556 

40. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 21, 8.15 p.m. 

10th September 1914 . , . . .558 

41. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 22, 6 p.m. 11th 

September 1914 ...... 560 

42. General Joffre's Special Instruction No. 23 of 12th Sep- 

tember 1914 ....... 562 

43. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 23, 7.45 p.m. 

12th September 1914 ..... 563 

44. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 24, 6 p.m. 13th 

September 1914 ...... 565 

45. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 25, 14th Sep- 

tember 1914 ....... 567 

46. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 26, 8.30 p.m. 

15th September 1914 ..... 569 



47. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 27, 8.30 p.m. 

16th September 1914 . . . . .570 

48. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 28, 3 p.m. 1st 

October 1914 . . . . . . .571 

49. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 29, 11 a.m. 2nd 

October 1914 . . . . . . .573 

50. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 30, 8 a.m. 4th 

October 1914 . . , . . . .575 

51. Sir John French's Operation Order No. 31, 8.30 a.m. 

5th October 1914 . . . . . .576 


(Bound in Volume) 
A. The Retreat from Mons 

1. General Theatre of Operations (Western Front) 

2. Concentration of the Armies (Western Front) 

3. Operations 4th-22nd August (German Armies in 

Belgium) .... 

4. Operations of B.E.F., 23rd-28th August . 

5. The Eve of Mons, 22nd August . 

6. The Eve of Le Cateau, 25th August 

7. Le Cateau, 26th August 

8. The Battle of Guise, 29th August 

9. Operations, 28th August-5th September (Re 

treat of B.E.F.) 

10. The German Advance, 17th August-5th Sept. 

11. 1st September 1914 

12. The Marne, 5th September 

12a. General Joffre's Projects for the Counter 
Offensive .... 

13. Operations, 6th-13th September (Advance of 

B.E.F.) . . . • • 

14. The Marne, 6th September 

15. The Marne, 7th September 

16. 8th September. Situation as known at German 

G.H.Q. ..... 

17. The Crisis, 9th September. The B.E.F. crosses 

the Marne .... 

18. The Marne. The German Retreat 

19. The Aisne, 14th September 

20. The Aisne, 20th September 

21. The Extension of the Battle Line northwards 

15th September-8th October . 

B. The Advance to the Aisne . 




At beginning 

Facing p. 15 

„ 35 

„ 51 

„ 63 

„ 121 

„ 153 

„ 237 

„ 239 

„ 251 

„ 255 

„ 281 

„ 286 

„ 295 
„ 299 
„ 309 

„ 329 

„ 333 
„ 359 
„ 377 
„ 439 

„ 457 



{In Separate Case) 

Plate 1. Order of Battle of a German Cavalry Division and 
a German Corps in August 1914. 

Map 1. The Concentration of the Armies (Western Front). 

2. Theatre of Operations (Western Front) 1 : 1,000,000. 

3. Mons to Compiegne, 1 : 250,000. 

4. Compiegne to Paris and Melun, 1 : 250,000. 

5. Situation, 17tii-24th August. 

6. Battlefield of Mons, 1 : 100,000 (layered). 

7. Mons, Sunday, 23rd August. 

8. Action at Elouges, 24th August. 

9. B.E.F., night, 25th/26th August. 

10. Battlefield of Le Cateau, 1 : 40,000 (layered). 

11. Le Cateau, 26th August. 

12. Actions at Fesmy and fitreux, 27th August. 

13. Retreat from Mons, 23rd-29th August. 

14. Situation, 27th August (night). 

15. Situation, 28th August (night), 

16. Situation, 29th August (night). 

17. Situation, 30th August (night). 

18. Situation, 31st August (night). 

19. 1st September, 1 : 100,000. 

20. Situation, 1st September (night). 

21. Situation, 2nd September (night). 

22. Situation, 3rd September (night). 

23. Situation, 4th September (night). 

24. Situation, 5th September (night). 

25. The Marne Battlefield, 1914 (layered). 

26. Situation, 6th September (night). 

27. Situation, 7th September (night). 

28. Situation, 8th September (night). 

29. The Crisis of the Marne, 9th September (afternoon). 

30. Situation, 9th September (night). 

31. Situation, 10th September (night). 

32. Situation, 11th September (night). 

33. Situation, 12th September (night). 

34. Situation, 13th September (night). 

35. Battlefield of the Aisne, 1 : 100,000 (layered). 

36. Battle of the Aisne, 25th September 1914. 



Baumgarten-Crusius : " Die Marneschlacht 1914." By General- 
major Baunigarten-Crusius. (Leipzig : Lippold.) 

An account of the battle of the Marne and the events leading 
to it, founded on official records. It is written particularly 
from the point of view of the German Third Army by a Saxon 
general. This was the first German book which told the truth 
about the Marne. 
Baumgarten-Crusius II. : " Deutsche Heerfiihrung im Marne- 
feldzugl914." By Generalmajor Baumgarten-Crusius. (Berhn : 

A further contribution to the solution of the question of 
responsibility for the orders to retreat at the battle of the 
Belgian General Staff : " Military Operations of Belgium in 
Defence of the Country and to Uphold her Neutrality." (English 
translation : London, Collingridge, Is. net.) 

Report, compiled by the Belgian General Staff, for the 
period July 31st to December 31st, 1914. 
Bloem : " Vormarsch." By Walter Bloem. (Leipzig : Grethlein.) 

One of the most graphic and dramatic accounts of war yet 
written. The author is a well-known German novelist, who 
was serving, as a Reserve Captain, in the 12th Brandenburg 
Grenadiers {III. Corps of von Kluck's Army). He gives the 
story of his experiences from outbreak of war to the Aisne, 
where he was wounded on ChivTCS Spur. 

There is an English translation : " The Retreat from Mons, 
1914." (Peter Davies.) 
Brandis : " Die Stiirmer von Douaumont." By Oberleutnant von 
Brandis. (Berlin : Scherl.) 

The author served in the 24th Regiment of the ///. Corps 
at jMons, Frameries, etc. He later took part in the capture of 
Fort Douaumont, Verdun ; this incident is commemorated in 
the title of his book. 

BuLOw : " Mein Bericht zur Marneschlacht." By Generalfeld- 
marschall von Biilow. (Berhn : Scherl.) Translated into 
French as " Mon rapport sur la bataille de la Marne." (Paris : 

A clear military narrative, with sketch maps, by the com- 
mander of the German Second Army, which includes the battle 
of the Aisne 1914. 



Engerand : " La Bataille de la Frontiere (Aout 1914)." By 
Fernand Engerand, Depute. (Paris : Bossard.) 

The author was " rapporteur " of the Parhamentary Com- 
mission which inquired into the loss of the Briey Basin. He 
gives a summary of the report, with important documents as 

Falkenhayn : " General Headquarters 1914-1916 and its Critical 
Decisions." By General Erich von Falkenhayn. (English 
translation, Hutchinson & Co., 21s.) 

Von Falkenhayn was Prussian Minister of War in 1914 ; 
but on 14th September he took over the duties of Chief of the 
General Staff from von Moltke. The book deals mostly with 
the successes of the Russian theatre of war, but contains much 
of importance as regards decisions in the West. 

F.O.A. (French Official Account) : " Les Armees Fran9aises dans la 
Grande Guerre." Ministere de la Guerre : fitat-Major de 
I'Armee-Service Historique. (Paris : Imprimerie Nationale.) 

The first three volumes of " Tome I " cover the period from 
the outbreak of war to 14th September 1914, the first volume 
commencing with the pre-war plans, including Plan XVII. It 
is a severely technical record, reinforced by a mass of documents, 
there being seven volumes of these to three of text in the ' ' Tome." 
Both text and maps are inaccurate as regards the B.E.F. at the 
Battle of the Marne. 

Gallieni : " Memoires du General Gallieni). Defense de Paris." 
(Paris : Payot.) 

A most valuable record. With Situation Maps. 

G.O.A. (German Official Account) : " Der Weltkreig 1914 bis 1918. 
Bearbeitet im Reichsarchiv. Die militarischen Operationen zu 
Lande." (Berlin : Mittler.) 

The first two volumes were published at the end of 1924, 
and many more have since appeared. Those dealing with the 
Western Front up to the end of October are the first, third, 
fourth and fifth. 

Although complete documents are not quoted, sufficient 
data are published for the reader to form his own conclusions. 
In the fifth volume the scale of the narrative is much reduced 
and, generally speaking, the maps hardly reach the standard 
of the text. 

G.O.A. K.u.K. : The first volume, with appendices, of " Kriegs- 
riistung und Kriegswirtschaft," published in 1930. 

A separate part of the German Official Account it deals with 
" Preparations for War." That section devoted to military 
preparations traces the increase of the German Army from 
1875 to 1914. 

Hanotaux: " Histoireillustreede la Guerre de 1914." By M.Gabriel 
Hanotaux. Nine volumes published. (Paris : Gounouilhou.) 

A beautifully illustrated work containing a large number 
of official documents, which make it valuable. The twelfth 
volume carries the narrative as far as the " Race to the Sea." 


Hausen : " Erinnerungen an der Marnefeldzug 1914." By General- 
oberst Freiherr von Hausen. (Leipzig : Koehler.) 

A personal and historical account of the campaign up to 
the end of the battle of the Marne by the commander of the 
German Third Army, with numerous sketch maps and an order 
of battle of the German forces. 

Heubner : " Unter Emmich vor Liittich. Unter Kluck vor 
Paris." By H. Heubner, Hauptmann der Reserve und 
Professor in Wernigerode. (Schwerin : Bahn.) 

A very vivid account by a professor and Reserve captain, 
which ends at the Aisne 1914. He belonged to the 20th 
Infantry Regiment, 11th Infantry Brigade, 6th Division, III. 
Corps of von Kluck's Army and was at Mons, the Ourcq, etc. 

Kluck : " Der Marsch auf Paris, und die Marneschlacht 1914." 
By A. von Kluck, Generaloberst. (Berlin : Mittler.) Trans- 
lated as " The March on Paris 1914." (Edward Arnold, 10s.) 

Von Kluck's own statement, with a very fine map showing 
the movements of the German First Army. 

KuHL : " Der deutsche Generalstab in Vorbereitung und Durch- 
fiihrung des Weltkrieges." By General der Infanterie H. von 
Kuhl. (Berlin : Mittler.) 

An account of the work of the Great General Staff in 
preparation for and during the war, specially valuable for the 
part dealing with the development of the German plan of 
campaign. The author was the Chief of the Staff to von Kluck 
and Crown Prince Ruppreeht of Bavaria, and had served 
22 years on the Great General Staff before the war. 

Kuhl's " Marne " : " Der Marnefeldzug 1914." By General der 
Infanterie H. von Kuhl. (Berlin : Mittler.) 
Published January 1921. 

LOHRISCH : " Im Siegessturm von Liittich an die Marne." By 
Oberleutnant der Reserve Dr. H. Lohrisch. (Leipzig : Quelle 
und Meyer.) 

The author served in the 27th Infantry Regiment of the 
IV. Corps in the early fighting, including Le Cateau. 

" Liittich-Namur " : " Der grosse Krieg in Einzeldarstellungen. 
Herausgegeben im Auftrage des grossen Generalstabes." (Olden- 
burg : Gerhard Stalling.) 

In the series of Great General Staff monographs. A very 
complete account of the capture of Liege and Namur. 

" Marnedrama " : " Das Marnedrama 1914." 

This is also in the series of Great General Staff monographs. 
Published in 1928, in five volumes, it treats of the Battle of the 
Marne in much more detail than G.O.A. but as its manifest 
purpose is to glorify the officers and men of the old German 
Army its comments and claims will hardly bear investigation. 
The sketch maps, however, are of considerable value. 

" Mons " : " Die Schlacht bei Mons." 

In the same series of Great General Staff monographs. There 
are excellent maps showing the German dispositions. 


M.W.B. : Militiir Wochenblatt. (Berlin : Mittler.) 
The principal German military journal. 

Palat : " La Grande Guerre sur le Front Occidental." By General 
Palat (Pierre Lehautcourt). In fourteen volumes. (Paris : 

A valuable unofficial compilation, as regards the movements 
of the French. The sixth volume deals with the Battle of the 
Marne, and the seventh carries the story of the war on the 
Western Front to end of the " Race to the Sea," 1914. The 
maps are portions of the 1 : 80,000 with no troops marked on 

PosECK : " Die deutsche Kavallerie in Belgien und Frankreich 
1914." By Generalleutnant von Poseck. (Berlin : Mittler.) 

The author was Chief of the Staff of the I. Cavalry Corps. 
It is a very valuable summary of the German cavalry operations, 
based on the official records, and has been translated in the 
United States. 

" Regt. No. . . ." These are references to war histories of German 
regiments. Most of them are in the series " Erinnerungsblatter 
deutscher Regimenter," published by Gerhard Stalling, Olden- 
burg. The volumes vary in length and value : some give 
detailed accounts of the fighting with extracts from the remini- 
scences of combatants ; others merely reproduce the official 
war diaries. 

" Schlachten und Gefechte " : " Die Schlachten und Gefechte des 
Grossen Krieges, 1914-1918. Quellenwerk nach amtlichen 
Bezeichnungen zusammengestellt vom Grossen Generalstab." 
(Berlin : Sack.) 

An official list of battles compiled by the Great General 
Staff showing the formations, etc., engaged in each, and lists 
of the higher commanders, with excellent index. 

Stegemann : " Geschichte des Krieges." Vols. I. II. and III. By 
H. Stegemann, a Swiss journalist. (Stuttgart : Deutsche 

A good general account of the war from the German point 
of view. 

Tappen : " Bis zur Marne." By Generalleutnant Tappen. (Olden- 
burg : Stalling.) 

The author was head of the Operations Section of Supreme 
Headquarters until August 1916. His book gives considerable 
insight into the opening operations up to and including the 
Marne, but has led to a good deal of controversy in Germany. 

VoGEL : " 3,000 Kilometer mit der Garde-Kavallerie." By Hof- 
prediger Dr. Vogel. (Leipzig : Velhagen und Klassing.) 

This is practically a picturesque diary of the operations 
of the Guard Cavalry Division from outbreak of war to May 
1915, written by the Divisional Chaplain. 

WiRTH : " Von der Saale zur Aisne." By Hauptmann der Land- 
wehr A. Wirth. (Leipzig : Hesse und Becker.) 

A small diary by an orderly officer attached to the Staff 
of the 13th Reserve Division {IV. Reserve Corps) that fought 
at Le Cateau, etc. 


" Ypres " : " Ypres 1914 " (Constable : 5s.), translation of " Die 
Schlacht an der Yser und bei Ypern ini Herbst 1914." (In the 
same series as " Liittich-Namur.") 

Contains, besides an account of the First Ypres, a good 
many details of the organization of the German Army. 

ZwEHL : " Maubeuge, Aisne, Verdun." By General der Infanterie 
von Zwehl. (Berlin : Curtius.) 

The author commanded the VII. Reserve Corps, captured 
Maubeuge, and reached the Chemin des Dames ridge at the 
Aisne just in time to prevent tlie British I. Corps from seizing 
it. There is a good account of the battle and much else of 
interest in the book. 




Eighteen hundred and seventy-one, the year which saw 
the proclamation of the German Empire at Versailles, wit- 
nessed also the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the 
British Army. It was then that the first steps were taken to 
replace the old army of Peninsular model by a force raised 
and organized on modern lines : the system of purchase, 
under which officers of the cavalry and infantry bought 
their commissions in each successive regimental rank, was 
abolished ; short service was adopted, not so much with 
the idea of attracting recruits as of building up a reserve ; 
and regiments of infantry, except those which were already 
composed of more than one battalion, were grouped in pairs. 
Ten years later, in 1881, this grouping was made permanent, 
the old numbers were abolished and the infantry was re- 
constituted into double-battalion regiments with territorial 
titles on a territorial basis. ^ 

The old Militia, Regular and Local, remained, as always, 
on a territorial basis. It was gradually drifting back to 
the function, which it had fulfilled during the Napoleonic 
wars, of a recruiting depot for the army, but without the 
ballot ; for the enforcement of the ballot had for a long 
time been suspended by an annual Act of Parliament. 

Side by side with the Militia stood the Yeomanry 
Cavalry, first called into being by the threat of a French 
invasion in 1794-95. It had always attracted an excellent 
class of recruit, but its training was very limited, both in 
scope and duration. 

Behind the Militia and Yeomanry were the Volunteers, 

^ An excellent account of the development of the Army will be found 
in " The Army Book of the British Empire " (H.M. Stationery Office, 
5s.). It unfortunately stops at 1893. 



chiefly infantry. They also had been first formed in 
1794-95 ; but in 1806-7 they had been transformed into 
Local Militia, recruited by ballot without power of sub- 
stitution, and subject to the same discipline as the Militia. 
After 1815 the Local Militia soon died out ; but in 1859 the 
Volunteers were revived on the original basis of 1794-95. 

The best part of a generation, however, was needed for 
the new army system initiated in 1871 to settle down and 
bear fruit. The home battalion of a regiment was for years 
little more than a group of boys who, as they matured, 
were drafted out to the battalion on foreign service. Only 
in India was the real British Army of grown and fully- 
trained men to be seen. 

In 1899-1902 the war in South Africa put the British 
military forces to a rude practical test. Never before had 
so many troops been sent overseas. The Regular Army 
was found to be too small for the work even when the 
Reserves had been called out, so that means to supplement 
it had to be improvised. The Militia and Yeomanry 
volunteered for foreign service almost to a man ; the 
Volunteer battalions sent a succession of companies to 
the Regular battalions of their regiments in South Africa, 
and formed special active service units ; finally the Overseas 
Dominions and Colonies enthusiastically raised and des- 
patched contingents. The experience acquired in this war 
by all arms and by all branches of the Staff was soon to 
prove of the utmost value. 

In February 1904 the office of Commander-in-Chief was 
abolished, and an Army Council was set up. It gave the 
Secretary of State a board of six advisers : four professional 
soldiers, each of them at the head of a great department, and 
two civilians, known as the financial and civil members. 
The duties of the Commander-in-Chief as regards inspection 
of troops were transferred to an Inspector-General of the 

Next came the constitution of a General Staff, on 
principles which were established at a meeting of the Army 
Council on 9th August 1905. The Chief of the General 
Staff was authorized to proceed with its formation on 
11th November 1905. Instructions for its organization were 
promulgated by a special Army Order of 12th September 
1906. Such a body was a complete innovation in the 
British Army. The word " Staff " had been known for 
generations, but signified originally no more than the 
Department of the Commander-in-Chief as contrasted with 


that of the Secretary of State for War — of the Horse 
Guards as distinguished from the War Office. This Staff, 
however, was an administrative one only ; there was no 
such thing as a Staff at Headquarters charged with such 
duties as are now associated with the name. Nor was the 
Headquarters Staff at the Horse Guards consulted as to 
military plans and operations. Its business was to pro- 
vide such trained men as the Cabinet required, not to advise 
as to their duties or their employment. 

The General Staff came into being under the guidance 
of Mr. (later Lord) Haldane, who became Secretary of 
State for War in December 1905, and was charged with 
the duty of reorganizing the land forces not only of the 
country, but of the Empire. 

The need of reform was urgent, for the Germans made 
little concealment of their intention to enter the lists for 
the domination of the world, and were not only perfecting 
vast military preparations, but quietly insinuating them- 
selves into the control of the most important financial and 
commercial undertakings of their neighbours. They had 
already established an elaborate system of espionage, and 
were abusing the hospitality of friendly States by organizing 
also a system of sabotage — that is to say, the destruction, 
by secret agents introduced in time of peace, of such im- 
portant means of communication as telegraph lines, rail- 
way junctions and bridges, and the like.^ Hitherto our 
ancient and glorious rival had been France ; but this new 
enemy lay to the east and not to the south ; and the eyes 
of those charged with the defence of the United Kingdom 
were now turned towards the North Sea instead of across 
the Channel. 

There was now also a prospect that, in order to fulfil 
our treaty obligations, it might become necessary to land 
a force on the continent of Europe for the purpose of 
protecting the integrity of Belgium, and to operate in 
conjunction with the French and Belgian armies in case of 
a German attack on France which should involve the viola- 
tion of Belgian neutrality. Hitherto Britain had always 

^ An assurance has been received from the Reichsarchiv that neither in 
the Marine Archiv (Navy Historical Section) nor in the MiUtary Section 
and the Espionage Section has anything of the nature of the sabotage 
system mentioned in the text been discovered. Doubtless the arrange- 
ments detected in the Empire were the work of irresponsible individuals. 
In any case, no harm was done in the United Kingdom ; for on declaration 
of war all suspected German agents, except one who was absent from 
England on a holiday, were arrested. 


depended upon a nominally voluntary army for service 
abroad ; but the numbers which could thus be raised were 
unlikely to be sufficient in an European war on a modern 
scale ; and to combine a voluntary with a compulsory 
system of recruiting at short notice seemed impracticable, 
even if Parliament could have been brought to assent to 
it. The problem presented to Mr. Haldane, therefore, was 
how to reorganize the existing forces so as to raise them to 
the highest point of efficiency, and to provide for their 
rapid expansion in time of need. 

In the reorganization of 1908 the first step was to build 
up a General Staff which should be the brains of the army. 
Special care was taken to separate its work, as a department 
concerned with strategy and training, from that of the old 
Headquarters Staff, whose duties were purely administra- 
tive. The instruction for officers of all branches of the 
Staff was provided at the Staff College, Camberley, which 
was greatly enlarged, and at the Indian Staff College at 
Quetta, then recently founded by Lord Kitchener. From the 
graduates of these institutions officers for the General Staff 
and for the Adjutant-General's and Quartermaster-General's 
Departments were chosen. For the technical instruction of 
the Administrative Staff special arrangements were made 
at the London School of Economics for selected officers, 
including Staff College graduates, to be trained in such 
matters as business management and railway organization. 

The initial difficulty of providing a reserve of officers 
was very great. Mr. Haldane turned to the universities 
to supplement the military colleges at Sandhurst and 
Woolwich by converting the Volunteer Corps which had 
long existed at our older universities into Officers' Training 
Corps.i In these, under the guidance of the General Staff 
and with the concurrence of the university authorities, 
practical military instruction was given not only to army 
candidates but to many students who did not intend 
entering the military profession as a career. Public 
schools which possessed Volunteer Corps were invited 
to convert them into contingents of the Officers' Training 
Corps ; whilst universities and schools which did not pos- 
sess such corps were encouraged to form them, and those 
which did so were given the privilege of nominating a 

1 The idea of turning the University Volunteers into an Officers' 
Training Corps was suggested by Lord Lovat and others just after the 
conclusion of the South African War, but was not then taken up by the 


certain number of boys for admission to Sandhurst without 
further examination. 

In the Regular Army one great need of the mounted 
branches was a reserve of horses to make good the deficiencies 
on mobilization. This was supplied by taking a census of 
all horses in the kingdom, and obtaining statutory power 
to requisition all which were suitable for military purposes. 

In the Artillery there was an insufficiency of ammuni- 
tion columns to meet the increased expenditure of ammuni- 
tion due to the introduction of quick-firing guns. The 
Garrison Artillery Militia was therefore turned into a 
Special Reserve, to be used primarily in the formation of 
these columns ; thirty-three Regular batteries, which had 
their full complement of guns but few men, were employed 
to train them. The general reserve of artillery was, by 
careful nursing, increased. By 1912 the number of batteries 
which could be mobilized for war had been increased from 
forty-two to eighty-one. The field artillery was gradually 
organized into brigades, each of three batteries and an 
ammunition column. 

In the Infantry steps were taken to restore the observ- 
ance of the system, generally called after Lord Cardwell, that 
for every battalion abroad at least one should be at home. 
The balance had been upset as a consequence of the South 
African War and our rapid Imperial expansion. By the 
withdrawal of certain colonial garrisons, the proportion 
was eventually established at eighty-four battalions at 
home — including nine of Guards that did not come into 
the Cardwell system — and seventy-three abroad. 

The Army Service Corps, reorganized in 1888, had 
proved itself so efficient in South Africa that it needed 
little more than such changes in organization as were 
entailed by the introduction of motor transport. In 1900 
the War Office had appointed a Mechanical Transport 
Committee, and by 1911 two schemes were in operation, 
viz. (a) the Provisional Subsidy Scheme, by which civil 
vehicles could be requisitioned for military purposes, until 
through (b) the Main Subsidy Scheme the number of 
vehicles built to the War Office specifications for private 
owners should suffice to supply the needs of the Army. 
Both schemes were employed to furnish the necessary 
vehicles on mobilization in 1914. In 1912 the transport 
of the divisions and the cavalry was reorganized. The 
horsed baggage and supply wagons were grouped into 
Train companies, leaving only first line or fighting trans- 


port with regimental units. For each division there was 
formed a divisional supply column of motor lorries, whose 
business it was to bring up rations to a point where the 
supply sections of the divisional Train could refill, and, if 
possible, to take back sick and wounded. 

In the Medical Services of the Army many important 
changes were made in organization, training and adminis- 
tration.^ They were due not only to the experience gained 
in the South African War, but to the lessons learnt from 
the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, and to the revision 
of the Geneva Convention in 1906, which afforded a new 
basis for the organization of voluntary aid. In the place 
of the bearer companies and field hospitals each division 
and the cavalry division were provided with self-contained 
field ambulances, and a new echelon — the clearing hospital — 
was introduced to facilitate the rapid evacuation of wounded, 
which was to be the great feature of the new system. Motor 
transport, though proposed in 1908, was only introduced 
on a very meagre scale, suflftcient for peace purposes. The 
Army Nursing Service was put on a firm basis. Under 
the auspices of an Army Medical Board, of which eminent 
civilian specialists were members, sanitation, measures for 
prevention of disease, inoculation, and the provision of 
pure water, received special attention. To keep the 
medical service in touch with the General Staff, officers of 
the Royal Army Medical Corps were appointed to special 
sections of the Directorates of Military Operations and 
Military Training. The medical service of the Territorial 
Force was organized similarly to that of the Regular Army, 
and large provision made for the formation of hospitals in 
time of war and the organization of voluntary aid. 

The Militia was renamed Special Reserve, to indicate 
what it had long been in practice — a depot for feeding the 
Regular Army. 

The Regular Army, or First Line, was reorganized 
into an Expeditionary Force consisting of six divisions of 
all arms and one cavalry division. Each of the six divi- 
sions comprised three infantry brigades, or twelve battalions 
altogether, with divisional mounted troops, artillery, 
engineers, signal service, supply and transport train, and 
field ambulances. The total war establishment of each 
division was thus raised to some 18,000 of all ranks and 

^ They will be found described in detail in " History of the Great 
War, Medical Services, General History," and are therefore enumerated 
here very briefly. 


descriptions, of whom 12,000 were infantry, with 24 
machine guns, and 4,000 artillery, with seventy-six guns 
(fifty-four 18-pdrs. ; eighteen 4-5-inch howitzers ; and 
four 60-pdrs.). The Cavalry Division comprised four 
brigades of three regiments each, and cavalry divisional 
troops, consisting of artillery, engineers, signal service 
and medical units. ^ The strength was some 9,000 of all 
ranks and 10,000 horses, with twenty-four guns (13-pdrs.) 
and twenty-four machine guns. Although the nucleus 
of one corps staff was maintained in time of peace, at 
Aldershot, and corps had been formed at manoeuvres, it 
was not originally intended to have any intermediate 
echelon between General Headquarters and the six divisions. 
The decision to form corps was — in order to conform to 
French organization — made immediately on the formal 
appointment on mobilization of Field - Marshal Sir John 
French as Commander-in-Chief. Thus it happened that 
two out of the three corps staffs had to be improvised ; even 
for each division four staff officers had to be found, as 
the Peace Establishment contained only two out of the six 
of the War Establishment. None the less, the organization 
of the Expeditionary Force was a great step forward in the 
preparation of the army for war. 

The Yeomanry became the second line of cavalry, and 
was reorganized into fourteen brigades. 

The Volunteers were treated according to the precedent 
of Castlereagh, who had invited them to convert themselves 
into Local Militia, on pain of disbandment. So, too, Mr. 
Haldane bade them either become Territorial troops or 
cease to exist, Mr. Haldane further reverted to the old 
policy of decentralization, and entrusted the raising and 
administration of the Territorial Force to the County 
Lieutenancies, renamed Territorial Associations, under the 
Presidency of the Lords Lieutenant. The only difference 
between the schemes of the two statesmen was that 
Castlereagh insisted upon compulsory personal service, 
under the ballot, for the Local Militia, whereas Mr. Haldane 
did not — or rather, in the prevailing temper of Parliament, 
could not — do the same for the Territorial Force. This 
force, whose establishment was something over 300,000 
strong, was organized upon exactly the same lines as the 
Regular Army. Its units were grouped into fourteen 
divisions, commanded by major-generals of the Regular 
Army, with small Regular staffs. 

^ The 5th Cavalry Brigade was left independent. 


The old Militia Garrison Artillery was replaced by 
Territorial Coast Artillery. The field artillery of Terri- 
torial divisions was armed with 15-pounder guns converted 
into quick-firers, and 5-inch howitzers used in the South 
African War ; its heavy artillery consisted of 4-7-inch guns. 
Thus none of its armament was modern. 

So much for the reorganization of the Territorial Forces 
on paper. Unfortunately, before 1914, both Special 
Reserve and Territorial troops sank so far below their 
establishment as to cause some anxiety at headquarters ; 
but it was not doubted that many old Territorials would 
rejoin the force at the approach of danger, and this con- 
fidence proved to be well justified. It was not anticipated 
that the Territorials would be ready for the field in less 
than six months after mobilization ; but since they would 
have at least some training, and as their organization was 
identical with that of the First Line, they could be em- 
ployed to reinforce the Regular Army, either by units or 
by complete divisions, as they became ready. 

It had been Mr. Haldane's intention to make the County 
Associations the medium for indefinite expansion of the 
forces in case of need. The rough plans for such expansion 
were actually blocked out, some of the Associations possess- 
ing, in whole or in part, the machinery for carrying the 
plan into effect. But the scheme had not yet received 
statutory sanction, and had not been worked out in detail. 
Meanwhile, the County Associations justified Mr. Haldane's 
faith in them, and their zeal and ability were of the utmost 
value to the War Office and the country. 

The first textbook issued after the South African War 
for the instruction of the army was " Combined Training," 
dated 1902, written by the late Colonel G. F. R. Hender- 
son. This, in 1905, became Part I. of "Field Service 
Regulations." In 1909 the book was superseded by the 
issue of " Field Service Regulations — Part I. (Operations)," 
while " Part II. (Organization and Administration)" was 
published for the first time. These manuals dealt with the 
general principles governing the employment of the army 
in war. 

Individual training — that is, the physical training, 
including route marching, bayonet fighting, musketry, 
signalling, scouting, and generally the education of the 
individual in his duties and the use of his arms — was 
carried on during the winter ; this gave place in the spring 
to the training by units, first of squadrons, companies and 


batteries ; next of cavalry regiments, infantry battalions 
and artillery brigades ; then of cavalry and infantry 
brigades, first alone and secondly in conjunction with other 
arms ; and lastly of divisions ; the whole culminated in 
inter-divisional exercises and army manoeuvres. 

The great feature of the training for the attack and 
counter-attack was combination of fire and movement. 
Ground was gained as the enemy was approached by rushes 
of portions of a battalion, company or platoon, under cover 
of the fire of the remainder and of the artillery. By this 
procedure, a strong firing line was built up some 200 yards 
from the enemy ; when fire superiority had been attained 
an assault was delivered. An attacking force was divided 
into firing line and supports, with local reserves, and the 
advance was often made in parallel lines in extended order ; 
but the form was essentially elastic and adapted to the 
ground, with the definite objects of maintaining control, 
utilizing such cover as was available, and presenting as 
difficult a target as possible to the enemy.^ 

IVIobilization was regularly practised. Every winter 
certain units were brought up to war establishment in the 
prescribed manner, the reservists and horses required to 
complete them being represented by men and animals from 
other units. In 1910 one of the two Aldershot divisions 
was mobilized at the expense of the other and by volunteers 
from the 1st Class Army Reserve, and so was able to take 
part in the manoeuvres at war establishment. Not only 
fighting units, but also such branches as the Ordnance and 
the Postal Service were represented at manoeuvres, and 
their work was carried on under conditions approximating 
to those of active service. 

All these reforms were pushed forward under the in- 
evitable disadvantages which have ever hampered the 
British Army. Recruits were dribbling in at all times of 
the year. Trained instructors were being withdrawn for 
attachment to the auxiliary forces, and drafts of trained 
men were constantly leaving their battalions during the 
autumn and winter for India. The commanders, again, 

^ The soundness of the principle of the combination of fire and move- 
ment was abundantly proved during the war ; but, as experience was 
gained, it was found that there was no role for " supports " of the kind 
laid down in the pre-war manuals ; reinforcing a line already stopped 
by casualties merely meant increasing losses without corresponding gain ; 
it became apparent that the proper employment of " local reserves " was 
to exploit local successes, and to fill defensively gaps in an attacking line 
that had been brought to a standstill. 


could never tell whether their next campaign might not be 
fought in the snows of the Himalayas, the swamps and 
bush of Africa or the deserts of Egypt — a campaign in 
Europe hardly entered into their calculations. It was 
practically impossible for the General Staff to keep abreast 
of the detailed information required as to possible theatres 
of war. Nevertheless, British regimental officers, to use 
their own expression, " carried on," although confronted 
with two changes uncongenial to many of the older men 
among them : the cavalry was trained to an increasing extent 
in the work of mounted infantry, and was armed with a rifle 
instead of a carbine ; and the Regular infantry battalions 
were organized into four companies instead of eight. 

In every respect the Expeditionary Force of 1914 was 
incomparably the best trained, best organized, and best 
equipped British Army which ever went forth to war.^ 
Except in the matter of co-operation between aeroplanes 
and artillery, and use of machine guns, its training would 
stand comparison in all respects with that of the Germans.^ 
Where it fell short of our enemies was first and foremost 
in numbers ; so that, though not " contemptible," it was 
almost negligible in comparison with continental armies, 
even of the smaller States. ^ In heavy guns and howitzers, 
high-explosive shell,^ trench mortars, hand-grenades,^ and 

1 For the Order of Battle and organization of the British Expeditionary 
Force, see Appendices 1 and 2. 

2 The German General Staff in 1912 considered it an " ebenbiirtiger 
Gegner " — man for man as good as their own. (Kuhl, " Der deutsche 
Generalstab," p. 87.) 

3 The following, which is translated from the German Admiralty 
Staff's "Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918 : Nordsee," 1. p. 82, is of interest 
in this connection : 

" The Supreme Command made no demands whatever on the Navy to 
stop or delay the British transports. On the contrary, it seemed not to 
place much value on the action of the efficient (wertvoll) but numerically 
weak Expeditionary Corps. In any case, when at the beginning of the 
war Frigate-Captain Heydel of the Operations Section was sent by the 
Admiralty to inquire if the Army laid stress on the interruption of the 
transport of troops, the Chief of the General Staff personally replied that 
the Navy should not allow the operations that it would otherwise carry 
out to be interfered with on this account ; it would even be of advantage 
if the Armies in the West could settle with the 160,000 English at the 
same time as the French and Belgians. His point of view was shared by 
many during the favourable commencement of the offensive in the West." 

* No high-explosive shells were provided for the 18-pdr. and 13-pdr. 
field guns ; but for the 60-pdr. and 4-5-inch field howitzer a proportion of 
the rounds carried in the field was high explosive : for the former 30 per 
cent and for the latter one-third (2 shrapnel to 1 H.E.). 

^ There was a service hand-grenade, but it was a complicated one, with 
a long shaft, which proved unsuitable in trench warfare, and a single one 
cost £1:1:3. 


much of the subsidiary material required for siege and 
trench warfare, it was almost wholly deficient. Further, no 
steps had been taken to instruct the army in a knowledge of 
the probable theatre of war or of the German army, except 
by the publication of a handbook of the army and of annual 
reports on manoeuvres and military changes. Exactly the 
same, however, was done in the case of the armies of all 
foreign States. The study of German military organization 
and methods w^as specifically forbidden at war games, staff 
tours, and intelligence classes, which would have provided 
the best opportunities for such instruction. ^ 

The last of the preparations for defence which requires 
mention here is the formation of the National Reserve, 
initiated by private enterprise in August 1910 with the 
approval of the Secretary of State for War and the Army 
Council. Its object was to register and organize all officers 
and men who had served in and left any of the military or 
naval forces of the Crown, with a view to increasing the 
military strength of the country in the event of imminent 
national danger. The National Reserve was divided into 
two classes : ^ one to reinforce existing units of the 
Regular Army, and the other to fill up vacancies in the 
Territorial Force, to strengthen garrisons, guard vulner- 
able points, or perform any other necessary military duties 
either as specialists or fighting men. By 1914, the National 
Reserve numbered about 350,000. On mobilization many 
of the members rejoined military and naval service ; the 
remainder formed eventually the nucleus of the Royal 
Defence Corps. 

As regards the other military Forces of the Empire, 
in 1907 there was a conference of Dominion Premiers 
in London, and the opportunity was seized to make the 
General Staff an Imperial one. Britain offered to train 
officers of the Overseas Dominions at the Staff Colleges, 
and to send out staff officers of her own as servants of the 
Dominion Governments. It was urged that there should 
be in all the forces of the Empire uniformity of armament 

1 Ignorance of the German Army proved a serious handicap in the 
early part of the campaign. British soldiers imagined that every German 
wore a spiked helmet, so that Jager, who wore a kind of shako, and 
cavalrymen in hussar busbies and lancer caps were mistaken for French- 
men or Belgians ; machine-gun crews, carrying their weapons into action 
with the trestle legs turned back, were thought to be medical bearers 
with stretchers, and were not fired on. 

2 See " National Reserve Regulations," issued with Special Army 
Order, March 7, 1913. 


and organization. The Dominions cordially welcomed 
these proposals. The Imperial General Staff was formed 
and unity of organization was established. The Dominions 
reserved to themselves the right of deciding whether to 
participate with their forces in the event of hostilities 
outside their own territories. 

In India, the reorganization of the army on modern 
lines into nine divisions, six cavalry brigades and a certain 
number of independent brigades by Lord Kitchener in 
1903, was designed to meet the Russian menace and make 
India independent of assistance from overseas for twelve 
months. As a consequence of the Anglo-Russian Agree- 
ment in 1907, and the state of Indian finances, this re- 
organization was never completed. The " Army in India 
Committee " of 1912-13 recommended that the field army 
should consist of seven divisions, five cavalry brigades 
and certain army troops, a force sufficient to deal with 
Afghanistan and the frontier tribes combined, till rein- 
forcements could arrive. This was the authorized Field 
Army when war broke out in 1914, but even this had not 
been provided with all its mobilization equipment. No 
troops were maintained for the specific purpose of war 
outside the Indian sphere. Not till August 1913 was the 
Government of India invited to consider the extent to 
which India would be prepared to co-operate with the 
Imperial Forces in the event of a serious war between 
Britain and an European enemy. It was agreed that 
the Army Council might count upon two — possibly three — 
divisions and one cavalry brigade. Actually in 1914, 
as will be seen, two infantry divisions and two cavalry 
divisions were sent to France, a division to the Persian 
Gulf, the equivalent of the infantry of two divisions to 
Egypt, besides minor detachments, and all but eight 
battalions of British infantry were withdrawn from India, 
their places being filled by British Territorial troops. 
But no measures were taken to make India the Eastern 
military base of the British Empire by the provision of 
arsenals and the development of the industrial resources 
of the country for war purposes, except in certain minor 
items. ^ 

The supreme direction of war in England, which 
originally lay in the sovereign, and was actually exercised 

^ Field artillery ammunition and rifles in small quantities, small-ariit 
ammunition, certain vehicles, boots, saddles, harness. 


by William III., passed after that monarch's death to the 
principal Ministers, and has remained with the Cabinet, or 
a group within the Cabinet, ever since. Up to 1904 no 
precedent had ever been set for the formation of a Council 
of War or of any standing advisory body for the Cabinet 
in naval and military matters in view of an outbreak 
of war. 

In 1895, however, a Defence Committee of the Cabinet 
was formed which, after some changes in 1902, was finally 
turned by Mr. (later Lord) Balfour in 1904 into the Committee 
of Imperial Defence. It was then placed under the direct 
control of the Prime Minister, and a Secretariat was pro- 
vided to record its deliberations and decisions, to collect 
information, to outline plans necessary to meet certain 
contingencies, and to ensure continuity of policy. 

Much good work was done by the Committee in various 
directions. Full measures were thought out in 1909 for 
counteracting any hostile system of espionage and sabotage, 
the Official Secrets Act being amended in 1911 to give the 
Government greater powers. An amendment of the Army 
Act in 1909 also gave authority to billet troops in time of 
emergency. Lastly, the essential steps to be taken im- 
mediately upon the outbreak of war were all studied ex- 
haustively, and a distribution of the consequent duties 
among the various departments, even among individual 
officials, was arranged in the minutest detail, so that there 
should be no delay and no confusion. The results of these 
preparations, and the regulations finally laid down, were 
embodied in a " War-book," and all essential documents 
were prepared beforehand, so that they might be signed 
instantly, the very room in which the signature should 
take place being fixed and a plan showing its exact position 
attached to the documents. 

Altogether, Britain had never entered upon any war 
with anything approaching such forwardness and fore- 
thought in the preparation of the scanty military resources 
at the disposal of the War Office. The Committee of 
Imperial Defence was still, however, only an advisory body 
possessing no administrative or executive functions. 

From 1911 onward the French and British Staffs had 
worked out in detail a scheme for the landing of the 
Expeditionary Force in France, and for its concentra- 
tion in the area Maubeuge — Le Cateau — Hirson, but, 
though there was an " obligation of honour," there was 
no definite undertaking to send the whole or any part 


of this force to any particular point, or, in fact, anywhere 
at all.^ 


(Sketches 1 & 2; Maps 1 & 2) 

For France the problem of defence against her eastern 
neighbour was a very difficult one. The frontier had no 
natural protection, both banks of the Rhine and the crest 
of the Vosges being in German hands, and the population 
of France was not only smaller than Germany's, but steadily 
sinking in comparison. She first sought to assist the 
solution of the problem by creating great fortified regions 
along her borders, alternating with selected gaps. Thus, 
from the Swiss frontier to Epinal there were roughly forty 
miles of fortification ; from Epinal to Toul a space of 
forty miles — the well-known Trouee de Charmes — was left 
undefended ; from Toul to Verdun was another forty miles 
of fortification ; and from Verdun to the Belgian frontier 
another gap of thirty miles. In second line were the second- 
class fortresses of Besan9on, Dijon, Langres, Rheims, and 
Laon ; and in rear of them again the entrenched camps of 

^ The first steps in the elaboration of the British scheme were taken 
in 1906, as a result of a conversation between Major-Gen. (afterwards 
Lieut. -Gen. Sir James) Grierson, then Director of Military Operations at 
the War Oflice, and Colonel Huguet, then military attache at the French 
Embassy in London. The studies were pursued by General Grierson and 
his successors, Major-Gen. (later Lieut. -Gen. Sir) J. Spencer Ewart and 
Br.-Gen. (later Field-Marshal Sir Henry) Wilson, with the authority of 
the Prime Ministers, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Mr Asquith, under 
the reserve that in no case should they constitute an engagement for the 
British Government. 

Similar arrangements of a non-binding nature had been made between 
the Italian and German General Staffs for Italy to assist Germany in 
certain circumstances, by " strengthening the German Western Armies 
" by the despatch of an Army, and the holding of French forces, if only 
" small ones, to the Alpine frontier. The Italian fleet should, together 
" with the Austro-Hungarian, form a counter- weight to the French Medi- 
*' terranean fleet." (G.O.A. i. p. 20.) 

An account of the steps which led to the British General Staff being 
given permission by the Government to enter into relations with the 
French General Staff will be found in " The Quarterly Review " of April 
1932, in an article, entitled " The Entente-Cordiale and the Military 
Conversations," by Major-Gen. Sir George Aston. 

There was no arrangement with Belgium of any kind, her Government 
having made it clear that they would maintain strict neutrality, opposing 
with all the Belgian forces France or Germany, if either violated the 
frontier, or any third Power interested who might land troops in Belgium, 
or try to use Belgian territory as a base of operations. See the article 
" The Belgian Conversations of 1912 " by Professor Emile Cammaerts in 
" The Contemporary Review " of July 1933. 



AUGUST 1914 

NORTH Z,-^- 






Origmal potitimi of Prmch l^ft «n Vlan 17 : ; 

OBesanfOD •' X I 



20 10 O 



80 too 
i 1 

Ordnance Survey, 1924.. 



Lyons and Paris. There were no modern fortifications on 
the Franco-Belgian frontier, but La Fere, Maubeuge, and 
Lille were defended by old-fashioned detached forts. 

The steadily aggressive attitude of Germany justified 
the uneasiness of France. In 1882 Germany formed a 
Triple Alliance with Augtria and Italy. In 1890 France 
responded by an Alliance with Russia. In 1891 Germany 
emphasized her hostile bearing by renewing the Triple 
Alliance ; while in 1899 she rejected the Tsar's proposal for 
a limitation of armaments. In 1905, 1911, and 1912 she 
made important additions to her army, raising its strength 
to twenty-five active corps, as against the fifteen with which 
she had taken the field in 1870 ; and behind these twenty- 
five she had nearly an equal number of Reserve corps. ^ 
On 30th June 1913 the total number of men with the 
colours in peace was raised from 711,000 to 856,000 ; 
this not only made the army the readier for an attaque 
brusquee, so much dreaded by the French, but assured a 
substantial corresponding increase in the effectives of 
reserve formations. 

France could only reply by reimposing the term of 
three years with the colours, which in 1905 she had reduced 
to two years. This signified an augmentation of 220,000 
men to her peace strength. But, even so, France had at 
the outbreak of war, roughly speaking, only three millions 
and a half of trained men, whereas Germany had over 
five millions ; ^ and, moreover, Germany's reserve forma- 
tions were more completely organized than those of the 

The French Army in peace was composed of ten cavalry 
divisions ; twenty-one army corps, each corps area also 
furnishing in war a Reserve division ^ and certain Territorial 
brigades ; and a Colonial Corps. 

On mobilization, according to the plan in force in 

^ See page 21. 

2 G.O.A., K.U.K., i. p. 219, puts the French trained strength at 
5,007,000, and total available at 5,940,000 ! 

F.O.A., i. (i.) p. 52, gives the theoretical mobilizable strength (with 
680,000 reinforcements in the depots) for service in France at 3,580,000. 
This total does not take into account all of the coloured troops : including 
these the mobilizable streng^th realized was 3,683,000 (" Commission de 
I'Armee," p. 203, by General Pedoya, President of the Senate Commis- 
sion of the Army during the war). 

^ The Reserve divisions were numbered by adding 50 to the army 
corps number up to the 71st : thus the I. Corps area provided the 51st 
Reserve Division. The word " Reserve " was dropped in June 1915, after 
which date the divisions were known by their numbers only. The XIX. 
Corps was in Algeria. 


1914/ these forces formed five Armies, with seven divisions 
of cavalry, and a cavalry corps of three divisions. The 
Reserve divisions were grouped into pairs, threes, or fours, 
and allotted either to Armies or defences, or kept at the 
disposal of General Headquarters.^ 

Whilst the British and Germans had a charger-loading 
(5 cartridges) rifle, the French infantry had a magazine 
rifle with 8 cartridges in the butt ; these fired it became 
a single-loader. On the other hand the French field gun 
was a true " Q.F.," with a rate of fire almost double that 
of the British or German ; but, again, the French corps 
and divisions had no howitzers or heavy guns, and only a 
few groups of heavy guns of small range under Army 
control. In all a French Active corps had 28 battalions 
and 120 field guns ; a German, 24 battahons, 108 field 
guns, and 52 howitzers (4-2 or 5-9-inch). 
Map 2. The zones of concentration selected in peace for the 

Sketch 2. five Armies were, commencing as usual on the right : 

First Army (General Dubail) — Region of Epinal. 

Second Army (General de Castelnau) — Region of Nancy. 

Third Army'(General Ruffey) — Region of Verdun. 

Fifth Army (General Lanrezac) — Between Verdun (exclusive) 

and Mezieres, with a detachment east of the INIeuse. 
Fourth Army (General de Langle de Gary) — In general reserve 

in region Sainte Menehould — Commercy. 
On either flank was a group of Reserve divisions : 

On the right — a group of four Reserve divisions — Region 
of Belfort. 

On the left — a group of three Reserve divisions (General 
Valabregue) — Vervins. 

The French Staff in choosing the areas of concentration 
were in face of the following facts. At Metz there was an 
immense German entrenched camp touching the frontier, 
and connected by four main lines of railway with the 
heart of Germany. From this a sudden blow — the attaque 
brusqiiee — could be easily struck with all the force of 
perfect organization ; it was imperative to take measures 
to parry it. On the other hand, the German school of 
strategy favoured envelopment from one or both flanks. 
This in a war with France signified, indeed, violation either 

1 Known as Plan XVII. ; the text is given in Appendix 9. The eariier 
plans and the origin of Plan XVII. will be found in F.O.A., i., chapters i. 
and ii. 

* For the Order of Battle and organization of the French Armies see 
Appendices 3 and 4. 


of Belgian or of Swiss neutrality, or of both ; but Germany- 
was not likely to be squeamish about such matters. Such 
violation might not go beyond a peaceable passage of 
troops across a corner of the neutral territory, yet still 
might suffice for the aggressor's purpose of turning a flank. 

To meet menaces so different in kind as direct attack 
in the centre and envelopment on the flanks, the French 
General Staff decided to take the offensive and to con- 
centrate facing the Eastern frontier, trusting to fortifica- 
tions and to covering troops to gain sufficient time to 
move the mass of the army elsewhere if required. It was 
intended to attack as soon as possible with all forces 
united : the First and Second Armies south of Metz, and 
the Fifth north of it ; the Third Army was to connect 
these two main attacks and arrange for the investment of 
Metz as they progressed. The employment of the Fourth 
Army depended on the action of the enemy ; if the Germans 
moved into Luxembourg and Belgium, it was to co-operate 
with the Fifth Army ; if the enemy merely covered the 
common frontier, it was to go to the support of the right 
attack. A detachment of the First Army (one corps 
and one cavalry division) was detailed in the plan to 
carry out a special operation on the extreme right in 
Alsace, with the object of holding any enemy forces 
which might attempt to advance on the western slopes 
of the Vosges, and of assisting in the removal of that 
part of the population which had remained faithful to 
France. It was hoped by the general offensive movement 
at any rate to dislocate the plans of the enemy, wrest the 
initiative from him, and, if he were moving through 
Belgium, strike a mortal blow at his communications. 

No provision, it will be noticed, was made to meet an 
envelopment carried out through Belgium west of the 
Meuse, or to cover the gap between the western flank of 
the Fifth Army and the sea, in which there were only local 
Territorial troops and a few old fortresses incapable of 
offering serious resistance to any invader. The informa- 
tion at the disposal of the French General Staff appeared 
to indicate that the Germans would attack from Metz, and 
had not sufficient troops to extend their front west of the 
Meuse. Beyond arranging for an alternative concentration 
of the Fourth and Fifth Armies should the enemy enter 
Luxembourg and Belgium, there was no preparation 
against a wide enveloping movement. 

On mobilization, General Joffre, vice-president du Cori' 

VOL. I c 



seil supSrieur de la guerre et chef de VJ^tat Major General, 
was appointed Commandant en Chef of the French Armies, 
with General Behn as Chief of the Staff. 

The approximate strength of the Armies (with the 
Reserve divisions on the flanks included in the totals of 
the nearest Army) was, in round numbers, after certain 
exchanges had taken place (viz. the transfer of two corps 
and two Reserve divisions from Fifth Army to Fourth, of 
one corps from Second to Fifth, etc.) ^ : — 

First Army 
Second Army 
Third Army 
Fourth Army 
Fifth Army 

256,000 men 
200,000 „ 

1,071,000 men 


In 1914 the Belgian Army consisted of a Field Army 
organized in six divisions and a cavalry division, and 
fortress troops which formed the garrisons of Antwerp, 
Liege and Namur. Antwerp was the great fortress of 
Belgium, the final refuge and rallying point of her forces 
and population in case of invasion by a powerful enemy. 
Its defences originally consisted of a strong enceinte, i.e. 
a continuous inner ring of fortification, and a girdle of 
forts, some two miles from the town, finished in 1868. 
Though a second girdle of forts and redoubts outside the 
first had been gradually added from 1882 onwards, the line 
was incomplete, there were several gaps and intervals in 
it, and it was on the average only some eight miles from 
the town, an altogether insufficient distance under modern 
conditions. Nor was the construction of the forts, although 
improvements were in progress, capable of resisting modern 
heavy artillery; notwithstanding that the guns were pro- 
tected by armour (cupolas and tourelles), the fact that they 
were inside the forts, which were conspicuously upstanding, 
and not in well concealed batteries outside, made them easy 

1 See footnote, page 40. 

* The details of the operations of the Belgian Army are taken from 
the official account : " L' Action de I'Armee Beige. Periode du 31 juillet 
au 31 dccembre 1914," which has since been translated as " Military 
" Operations of Belgium. Report compiled by the Belgian General Statf 
" for the period July 31st to December 31st, 1914 " (London, Collingridge, 
Is. net). For the Order of Battle see Appendix 5. 


targets. The same remarks as regards construction apply- 
to the defences of Liege and Namur ; these fortresses were 
" barrier forts and bridgeheads " on the Meuse ; they 
constituted the first line of Belgium's resistance, and were 
designed to guard the approaches into Belgium from the 
east and south-east, and hinder any force from crossing 
the Meuse either from France into Germany or Germany 
into France. They were never intended to be defended 
a outrance and depended on field troops for the defence of 
the intervals between the forts. At Huy on the Meuse 
between Namur and Liege there was an ancient fort, which 
at best might secure sufficient time for the destruction of 
the railway bridges and tunnel situated there. 

The reorganization of the Belgian Army authorized by 
the Government in 1912, had barely begun to take effect. In 
accordance with this a force of 350,000 men was to be formed: 
150,000 for the Field Army, 130,000 for the fortress garri- 
sons, and 70,000 for reserve and auxihary troops. But 
these numbers would not in the ordinary course have been 
available until 1926. Actually in August 1914 only 
117,000 could be mobihzed for the Field Army, and a 
smaller proportion for the other categories. 

The six divisions were stationed in peace so that at 
short notice they could quickly confront any enemy, were 
he Germany, France, Great Britain or Holland : 1st Division 
around Ghent ; 2nd Division, Antwerp ; 3rd Division 
around Liege ; 4th Division, Namur and Charleroi ; 5th 
Division around Mons ; 6th Division, Brussels ; and 
Cavalry Division, Brussels. Thus the 1st Division faced 
England ; the 3rd, Germany ; the 4th and 5th, France ; 
and they were intended to act as general advanced guards 
as occasion arose and gain time for the movements of the 
other divisions to the threatened area. 

On the ordinary peace footing only part of the recruit 
contingent was with the colours, so that in case of danger 
of war, the Belgian Army had first to recall men on un- 
limited leave, in order to raise its forces to " reinforced 
peace establishment," the ordinary strength of the units of 
the Continental Powers, and then to complete the numbers 
by mobilizing reservists. Thus not only was Belgium 
normally less ready than most nations, but she was in the 
throes of reorganization, and could not put into the field 
even as many men as the British Regular Army. 



From 1815 to 1860, the Prussian Army had practically 
remained stationary in numbers, with a peace strength of 
150,000 men formed in eight Army Corps, maintained by 
a yearly contingent of 40,000 recruits, who served three 
years with the colours. One of the first acts of Wilhelm I. 
on coming to the throne in January 1860 was, in opposition 
to the wishes of his Legislature, to raise the annual con- 
tingent to 63,000, and the peace strength to 215,000. 
From thence onwards there was a steady increase of the 
Prussian military forces. 

The war of 1866 made Prussia head of the North 
German Confederation, whilst Hesse-Darmstadt, Wiirt- 
temberg, Bavaria and Baden were bound to place their 
armies at the disposal of Prussia in time of war. In 1870, 
in addition to her original eight corps, she was able after 
arrangements with the other States to put into the field 
the Guard, IX., X. (Hanoverian), XI., and XII. (Saxon), 
and /. and II. Bavarian Corps, and eventually the XIII. 
(Wiirttemherg) and XIV. (Baden), with a war-strength of 
roughly 950,000. 

The formation of the German Empire in 1871 made 
expansion still easier, for by the Constitution one per cent 
of the population could be in training under arms. The 
subsequent peace strengths were ^ : — 



One Year 





























































































^ For the Order of Battle and organization of the German Forces see 
Appendices 6 and 7. 

^ G.O.A., K.U.K., i. and tables in the Appendix volume. 

The largest increase, it will be noticed, came after 1912. A project 
was put forward at the end of that year by the Chief of the General Staff, 
who stated, in view of the Balkan War, which had just broken out, that 
" the Army was not strong enough for the duties required of it " — which 
were to carry out the Schlieffen plan of campaign. The increase was 


The approximate mobilizable strength was : — 

Trained officers and men . . . 4,300,000 (5,020,700)1 
Partially trained . . , . 100,000 — 

Untrained 5,500,000 (5,474,000) 

9,900,000 (10,494,700) 

The Army was organized into 25 Active army corps Plate i. 
(50 divisions) — the Guard, I. to XXI., and /., //., ///. 
Bavarian ; and in each army corps district cadres were 
provided to form certain Reserve divisions (32), Ersatz 
divisions (7), Landwehr brigades and regiments (equivalent 
to 16 divisions), from the supernumeraries in the depots. 
There were also 11 cavalry divisions. 

The plan on which this great force would be used on 
the Eastern and Western fronts could only be surmised. 
It will, so far as it is known, be given later ^ after the 
opening moves of the campaign have been developed and 

Service in the German Army was divided into : — 
service in the Active (or Standing) Army (two years, 
but three in the cavalry and horse artillery) ; service 
in the Reserve (five years, but four in the cavalry and 
horse artillery) ; service in the Landwehr (eleven years). 
The Landsturm included youths between 17 and 20, too 
young for service in the Army, and trained and untrained 
men between 39 and 45, who were thus over the ordinary 
military age. 

The original Reserve corps which took part in the August 
offensive were formed mainly of Reserve men super- 
numerary to the requirements of the Active Army, with 
some Landwehr ; but the Guard Reserve Corps contained 
an Active division, and others, e.g. the V., VI., VII. and 
IX., each contained an Active brigade, as the Active corps 
of these numbers had each in peace time an extra brigade ; 
others had similarly an Active regiment. Soon after 
declaration of war, additional Reserve divisions and corps 
were built up of volunteers (mainly youths under full 
military age and men not yet called up, etc.), with a sub- 
sanctioned by the Reichstag in June 1913. In the spring of 1914 a decision 
was made to introduce complete universal service, no one escaping it, in 
1916. This would probably have doubled the strength of the German 

1 The figures in brackets are from G.O.A., K.u.K., i. p. 219 ; the original 
ones were calculated before the war by the British Intelligence Branch. 

* See page 56. 


stantial nucleus of about 25 per cent of trained men of 
the older classes.^ 

The Ersatz brigades and divisions of 1914 were not 
formed from untrained men of the Ersatz Reserve,^ but 
from trained men supernumerary to the numbers required 
for the Active and Reserve formations. They were 
organized like the Reserve formations but had not the 
full establishment of machine guns, cavalry, or artillery, 
and were entirely without field kitchens, medical units, 
train and ammunition columns. They were therefore not 
equivalent to other brigades and divisions in open warfare. 

The Landwehr units were formed of men who had com- 
pleted seven years with the Active Army and Reserve, and 
were under 39 years of age. 

As the war went on, the significance of the various 
classifications largely disappeared, and Active, Reserve, 
Ersatz and Landwehr divisions contained men of all 

The French were at the outbreak of war dressed in their 
peace-time old-fashioned uniforms — the infantry in blue, 
with red trousers, and kepi ; the officers conspicuous by 
reason of their shorter coats ; " horizon-blue " was not intro- 
duced until 1915. The Belgian infantry wore dark blue, with 
blue-grey trousers, adopting khaki in 1915. The Germans 
wore " field-grey," with a cover of that colour on the spiked 
helmet or other cavalry or Jdger head-dress. The British 
were of course in khaki, and wore the flat peaked cap. 

1 " Ypres 1914," p. 5. 

* This consisted of men temporarily unfit, or fit and liable for military 
service but not called up for training either because they were super- 
numerary to the annual contingent, or for family reasons, or on account of 
minor physical defects. 



(Sketches 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 ; Maps 1, 2 & 5) 

The record of the negotiations and of the diplomatic corre- 
spondence and conversations which took place after the 
assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria 
and his Consort at Serajevo on the 28th June 1914 until 
the outbreak of war is available in an official publication.^ 
In this work the efforts of the British Government to bring 
about mediation and their determination to take no step that 
would contribute to precipitate war are made abundantly 
clear. It is therefore unnecessary here to allude to diplo- 
matic proceedings, except to show how military preparations 
were affected by them. 

On the 27th July, the British Government judged the 
situation to be sufficiently serious to warrant them in 
countermanding the dispersal, then in progress, of the 
Home Fleets at the end of the exercises at sea which had 
followed a test mobilization. At 5 p.m. on the 28th, on 
which day Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, the 
First Fleet was ordered to proceed to its preliminary war 
station in the North ; ^ on the 29th, at 2 p.m., the 
Government further ordered the precautionary measures 

^ " British Documents on the Origin of the War," xi., edited by G. P. 
Gooch and Harold Temperley (H.M. Stationery Office). As narratives 
and as commentaries on these documents should be read : " The History 
" of Twelve Days, July 24th to August 4th 1914. Being an Account of the 
" Negotiations Preceding the Outbreak of War, based on Official Pub- 
" lications," by J. W. Headlam (T. Fisher Unwin), and " The Outbreak 
"of the War 1914-1918 : A Narrative based mainly on British Official 
" Documents," by Professor Sir Charles Oman (H.M. Stationery Office). 

" The naval precautions taken will be found fully described in " The 
History of the War: Naval Operations," i., by Sir Julian Corbett. 

According to the protocol in Document No. 10855 of the official diplo- 
matic papers of the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pub- 
lished in eight volumes under the title of " Osterreich-Ungarns Aussen- 
poUtik vor der Bosnischen Krise 1908 bis zum Kriegsausbruch 1914," 



arranged by the General Staff to meet an immediate 
prospect of war, to be put in force. These affected the 
Regular troops only, and included the recall of officers 
and men on leave and furlough, and the manning of all 
coast defences. 

The Belgian Government decided to place their Army 
upon its " reinforced peace footing." ^ 

On the same day, the 29th, the British Ambassador 
at Berlin was asked by the German Chancellor to give 
assurance of England's neutrality if Russia should attack 
Austria and an European conflagration were to ensue. To 
this significant enquiry Sir Edward Grey, the Minister for 
Foreign Affairs, responded on the 30th by a refusal to 
entertain the proposal. Russia on this day issued orders 
for the mobilization of her four Southern Armies ; and 
Germany threatened that she would begin mobilization 
unless Russia ceased hers. News was also received of the 
Austrian bombardment of Belgrade. In order to avoid the 
possibility of a frontier incident the French Government 
ordered that no individual, no patrol, should under any 
pretext pass a line between Hussigny (on the Luxembourg 
frontier, east of Longwy) and Delle (on the Swiss frontier, 
south-east of Belfort), described by a precise enumeration 
of localities. This line was on an average 10 kilometres 
inside the frontier.^ 

on the 27th July Count Berchtold, the Foreign Minister, told Kaiser 
Franz Joseph, in order to induce him to sign the declaration of war against 
Serbia, that, " according to a report from the IV. Corps, Serbian troops 
" have fired from Danube steamers on the troops near Temesvar, and, on 
" this being replied to, a general action developed. Hostilities are there- 
" fore actually opened." 

In the draft of the declaration of war this incident was given as one of 
the principal causes of its despatch. Count Berchtold, having obtained 
the Kaiser's signature, struck out the paragraph, reporting to him on the 
29th (Document No. 11015) that he had done so, as "the reports of the 
" fighting near Temes Kirbin have not been confirmed. On tiie contrary, 
" only an isolated report of trifling firing near Gradiste [equally false]." 
Ilerr Emil Ludwig in " July 1914" asserts, with regard to the outbreak of 
war, that in Germany, " of the 2.3 documents susceptible of falsification, 
" the Government falsified 18," but " the worst liar was Count Berchtold." 

^ See page 19. 

2 F.O.A. i. (i.) p. 76. This particular order was repeated on 31st July 
with the addition : — 

" This proliibition applies to the cavalry as well as to the other arms. 
" No patrol, no reconnoitring party, no post, no individual, must be east 
" of the said line. Anyone who crosses it will be liable to court-martial. 
" It is only permitted to transgress this order in case of a very definite 
"attack." {Ide7n,p. 81.) The restriction was withdrawn at 2 p.m. on 
the 2nd August on account of German violation of the French frontier. 
{Idem, p. 85.) 


At 1 P.M. on the 30th July the " Berhn Lokalanzeiger " 30-3iJuly 
issued a special number (Extrablatt), announcing that i^i'*- 
mobilization had been ordered. The statement was soon 
contradicted, but it had been telegraphed to Petrograd and 
at 6 P.M., before contradiction arrived, Russia ordered 
general mobilization.^ On the 31st Austria followed suit, 
and decreed the full mobilization of her forces, whereupon 
Germany made a formal proclamation of " Imminent 
Danger of War " {drohende Kriegsgefahr), which enabled 
measures similar to those of the British " Precautionary 
Period " to be taken.^ At the same time Germany pre- 
sented an ultimatum to Russia to the effect that, unless 
she ceased mobilization within twelve hours, Germany 
herself would mobilize upon both frontiers. Significantly, 
Turkey also ordered mobilization on the 31st July.^ Sir 
Edward Grey, on the same day, sent an identic request to 
Germany and France enquiring whether they would respect 
Belgian neutrality. France immediately answered with an 
unequivocal affirmative ; Germany, however, sent only an 
evasive reply ; and on the 1st August both France and 
Germany ordered general mobilization. 

The beginning of mobilization in France raised a serious 

1 See Renouvin, " Les origines immediates de la Guerre," p. 146 ; 
General Danilov (Quartermaster General of the Russian Army), " Russland 
in Weltkrieg 1914-15," pp. 25-6 ; General Suchomlinov (VVar Minister), 
" Erinnerungen," pp. 365-7. 

2 On the proclamation of drohende Kriegsgefahr, the following pre- 
cautionary measures had to be taken in all Army Corps districts : — 

Protection of important railway structures : — bridges, tunnels, etc. 

Recall from leave of all members of the Active army. 

Recall of troops, if away, to their garrisons. 

Control of railway and other traffic. 

Execution of the measures laid down for protection of the frontier. 

Move of garrisons of active troops and fighting equipment to the islands 
of the North Sea coast. 

In addition, in the frontier districts : — 

Guard of railway lines ; defence of large bridges and important railway 
junctions, air-ship sheds and establishments important to aircraft and 
radio-telegraphy against attempts at demolition, including attacks by air- 
craft ; removal of sick into the interior of the country. 

" If a hostile attack is made before definite mobilization, or it is evident 
' that such an attack is imminent, the Army Corps commanders must take 
' all necessary measures to remove inland from the threatened districts and 
' protect all men liable to service, and all men found fit for military service, 
' as well as all serviceable horses. They must also, as far as possible, 
' remove all material resources from reach of the enemy, particularly 
' depots of supplies, the monies of the State, petrol. In case of necessity 
' measures must be taken to destroy them." (Kindly furnished by the 

3 The " 1st day of mobilization " was the 3rd August. The secret 
treaty of alliance between Turkey and Germany was signed at Berlin on 
the 2nd August. 


1 Aug. question for Great Britain. There was, it is true, no 
1914. definite agreement or understanding that she should send 
assistance to France, and the British Government was free 
to decide, untrammelled, for peace or war. But a scheme 
had been elaborated, in the event of certain contingencies, 
between the General Staffs of the two countries ; and an 
essential point in this scheme was that the first movement 
of the British advanced parties, stores and so forth, should 
begin on the first day of mobilization. Assuming this coin- 
cidence of movement and mobilization, it was reckoned 
that six divisions — or four, if six could not be spared — 
one cavalry division and one cavalry brigade could be 
transported from Great Britain to concentration areas 
between Avesnes and Le Cateau, and would be ready to 
advance thence on the fifteenth day after the order for 
mobilization had been issued. 

That the British mobilization, if it should take place at 
all, would be later than the French was now obvious. The 
British General Staff therefore suggested that measures 
might be taken to ensure that, if mobilization should come 
after all, movement to France of the advanced parties, 
which could be warned at once, should be simultaneous 
with the issue of the order for it. Another important 
measure was the guarding of the lines of railway to the 
ports of embarkation. This duty had been assigned to 
certain units of the Territorial Force ; but these were 
about to proceed to camp for their annual training ; and, 
unless the orders for that training were cancelled, there 
might be delay in the despatch of the Expeditionary Force. 
The Government considered, however, that the counter- 
manding of the orders for Territorial training would be 
construed as not less menacing than the order for mobiliza- 
tion itself ; and they shrank from any measure which might 
seem to extinguish the last hope of peace. 

At 12 noon on the 1st August, the German ultimatum 
to Russia expired, and a general conflagration became 
inevitable.^ The Cabinet at 2 p.m. on the 2nd cancelled 
the orders for Territorial training and at 6 p.m. those 

^ The German declaration of war was delivered by the Ambassador at 
Petrograd, Count Pourtales, at 7 p.m on the 1st August ; he at the same 
time demanded his passports (Kautsky's " Die deutsche Dokumente zum 
Kriegsausbruch," iii. pp. 50 and 83, which is confirmed by the Russian 
Orange Book). The Russian Foreign Minister, M. Sazonov, said to him, 
" You could have prevented war by a word ; you would not do so. In 
" all my efforts to preserve peace, I received not the slightest help from 
" you." 


for the Army manoeuvres, but still issued no orders for 2 Aug. 
mobilization.^ The Navy was quite ready for active service, ^^i'*- 
and the French Ambassador was given the assurance that 
" if the German fleet comes into the Channel or through 
" the North Sea to undertake hostile operations against the 
" French coasts or shipping, the British Fleet Avill give all 
" the protection in its power." Beyond this conditional 
promise of naval intervention the Cabinet would not go 
without consulting Parliament. Parliament was consulted 
on the following day, the 3rd August ; but in the meanwhile 
a most momentous event had occurred. 

Faithful to the obligations imposed upon her by treaty, Sketch i. 
Belgium on the 1st August had ordered her forces to be ^^^P ^' 
mobilized, and was preparing to resist violation of her 
territory from any quarter whatsoever ; but at seven o'clock 
in the evening of the 2nd the German Minister at Brussels 
presented a Note to the Belgian Government, requesting 
a reply within twelve hours. This Note had been drawn 
up by the Great General Staff as early as 26th July, and 
despatched under seal to the German Minister at Brussels 
on the 29th, with orders that it was not to be opened 
pending further instructions. It set forth that the German 
Government had certain intelligence of the intention of the 
French forces to march on the Meuse by Givet and Namur, 
and, in view of this attack, requested free and unresisted 
ingress for the German troops into Belgian territory. The 
Belgian Government replied that they would repel any attempt 
either of France or Germany upon Belgium ; and they also 
declined the help of France against any German encroachment 
until they should have made formal appeal to the Powers, 
Prussia among them, which had guaranteed Belgian neutrality. 

Other important events on the 2nd August were that 
German troops crossed the Polish frontier, broke also into 
France at four different points, ^ and entered the territory 
of Luxembourg.^ 

^ At 10 A.M. on the 2nd the leaders of the Unionist party despatched by 
special messenger to the Prime Minister a letter assuring the Government 
" of the united support of the Opposition in all measures required by 
" England's intervention in the war." 

^ They are enumerated in F.O.A. i. (i.), p. 83, which adds that " at 
" Petit Croix German cyclists fired on French custom house officers." 

According to the lieichsarchiv : " There were transgressions of the 
" frontier by small detachments, contrary to the will of the High Command." 

^ By the treaty of 1867 Prussia guaranteed the perpetual neutrality of 
Luxembourg ; by the Convention of ] 902 Germany re-insured the neutrality 
and contracted that the railways in the Grand Duchy which she exploited 
should not be used for the transport of her troops. 


3 Aug. Sir Edward Grey had no accurate information as to the 
1914. exact nature of the German ultimatum to Belgium when he 
met the House of Commons on the 3rd August. He was 
aware, however, of the crude fact that an ultimatum had 
been tendered, and, whilst coming down to the House, he 
had been informed that King Albert had telegraphed to 
King George invoking England's diplomatic intervention 
to safeguard the integrity of Belgium. He presented, in 
due order, the course of action he had pursued and the 
motives dictating it. The House of Commons, as it 
followed him, applauded his decision not to commit the 
country to armed intervention on account of the Serbian 
quarrel, but approved the conditional promise of the Fleet's 
aid to France, and grew enthusiastic when it heard that 
England would be true to her engagements to uphold the 
integrity of Belgium. 

No resolution followed upon the speech of the Secretary 
of State for Foreign Affairs. After the adjournment which 
followed it, towards 7 p.m., he was able to read to the 
House full information, received from the Belgian Legation, 
of the German Note that had been presented in Brussels. 
It left no doubt that a German attack was about to take 
place, if indeed it had not already begun. 

The immediate measures taken were to announce that 
a moratorium would be proclaimed and that the Govern- 
ment would undertake the responsibility of maritime 
insurance. The Territorial Force was embodied and the 
Naval Reserves were called out. It was now clear that our 
mobilization must take place at least three days later than 
the French, and that, even so, movement could not be 
simultaneous with it. The Government, however, reckoned 
that by this delay they had gained more than they had lost 
by securing the unanimity, or approximate unanimity, of 
the nation and the benevolence of neutrals. 

On the 3rd August, at 6.45 p.m., Germany declared war 
on France, making alleged violation of her frontier by 
patrols and of her territory by aviators a pretext.^ Italy, 

* These allegations have since been admitted to have been false. See 
M. Poincare's " The Origins of the War," pp. 3 and 4. 

G.O.A., i., p. 104 f.n. 2 and p. 105 f.n, 1, revives the charges, although 
Freiherr von Schoen, German Ambassador in Paris in 1914, in his book 
translated as " The Memoirs of an Ambassador," p. 201, has declared the 
alleged air attacks to be " merely the product of highly overwrought im- 
" agination." He adds : " How such false reports could have been given 
" the weight of facts in our responsible quarters, and of such momentous 
" facts, is inconceivable." 


though a member of the Triple Alhance, declared that she 4-6 Aug 
would maintain her neutrality in the impending struggle. iQi-i-- 

Meanwhile Germany, unhampered by moral considera- 
tions, completed her arrangements for the invasion of 
Belgium. On the morning of the 4th August, she declared 
war on Belgium, and two of her cavalry divisions passed the 
frontier : in the afternoon the heads of infantry columns 
also entered Belgium. 

Early in that same afternoon of the 4th August Sir 
Edward Grey telegraphed to the British Ambassador at 
Berlin instructing him to ask for his passports if no satis- 
factory answer were given regarding the observance of 
Belgium's neutrality by 12 midnight (11 p.m. Greenwich 
mean time). At 4 p.m. the British Government gave 
orders for the mobilization of the Army. At 12.15 a.m. 
on the morning of the 5th August, the Foreign Office issued 
the following statement : 

Owing to the summary rejection by the German Govern- 
ment of the request made by His Majesty's Government for 
assurances that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, 
His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin has received his passports 
and His Majesty's Government have declared to the German 
Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain 
and Germany as from 11 p.m. on the 4th August. 

On the 5th and 6th August, two meetings, attended 
by the principal Ministers, including Lord Kitchener, who 
was at home on leave from Egypt and became Secretary 
of State for War on the 6th, and by the leading members 
of the Staffs of the Navy and Army of Britain, were 
assembled to consider the conduct of the war. The exact 
state of affairs at the moment was that Great Britain, 
France and Russia were at war with Germany ; that 
Belgium had been wantonly attacked but was making a 
better defence than had been expected ; that Austria was 
at war with Serbia only ; and that Italy was neutral. The 
main military questions to be decided were the employment 
and disposition of the Expeditionary Force, questions 
which were complicated by the delay in mobilization. It 
was determined first that the Force, less the 4th and 6th 
Divisions, should embark for the continent. In order to 
reduce the chance of a German landing in force interfering 
with this move, the Secretary of State decided that the 18th 
Brigade of the 6th Division, then at Lichfield, should move 
to Edinburgh, and two brigades of the 4th Division should 


proceed to Cromer and York, in each case accompanied 
by some artillery. The 11th Brigade of the 4th Division 
was already at Colchester. Five cyclist battalions and 
eventually the Yeomanry Mounted Division were also sent 
to the East coast. The rest of the 6th Division was to 
remain in Ireland. 

Then came the final decision as to the destination 
of the Expeditionary Force. In view of the attack on 
Belgium, had the British contingent been of a size adequate 
for independent operations of a substantial character, 
there would have been much to be said in favour of making 
Antwerp the base of its military operations ; but as it 
was so small, and as Antwerp, owing to part of the Schelde 
being Dutch territorial waters, would have to be reached 
overland after disembarkation at Ostend and other ports, 
and as operations in the north might involve separation 
from the French, the suggestion was not followed. There 
remained the area already considered with the French, 
narnely, that around Le Cateau and Avesnes. Certain 
military opinion, however, was against a concentration 
of the British forces in any area in advance of Amiens. 
Finally, after discussion as to the expansion of the army, 
it was agreed to leave the decision with our Alhes, the 
French ; ^ and the council broke up after passing three 
resolutions, namely — First, to embark ultimately five (1st, 
2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th), but for the present only four (1st, 
2nd, 3rd and 5th) of the divisions and the Cavalry Division 
(plus the extra brigade) of the Expeditionary Force, to 
commence on the 9th ; Secondly, to bring home the Im- 
perial troops from South Africa ; Thirdly, to transport two 
Indian divisions to Egypt, but no further, and to urge the 
Governrnent of India to send a division to capture Dar es 
Salaam in German East Africa. 

Through the efforts of Colonel Huguet, who as inter- 
mediary travelled backwards and forwards between Paris 
and London, it was settled that the Expeditionary Force 
should proceed to the zone selected in peace time by the 

1 According to Marechal Joffre's official report to a Parliamentary 
Commission d'Enquete : " The directions for concentration did not 
" mention the place eventually reserved for the British Army. . . . Our 
" military arrangements with England had in fact a character which was 
" both secret and contingent {iventuel), and made it improper to mention 
" them in such a document. ... In the event of its arrival, its employment 
" was looked for at the place which should be logically reserved for it, on the 
" left of the line of the French Armies, which it would thus prolong." " La 
preparation de la guerre et la conduite des operations," par Le Marechal 
Joffre, p. 21. 


French Staff, with some slight modification, but according 4 Aug. 
to the British time table. General Joffre's request, that i^i"*- 
at least one British division should be sent over as rapidly 
as possible to take its place in the line, Lord Kitchener 
refused on the grounds that any alteration of the plan of 
transport would cause confusion and, in the end, delay. 

To Field - Marshal Sir John French, who had been 
selected to command the Expeditionary Force, special 
instructions as to his co-operation with the French were 
issued by the Secretary of State for War.^ 

Lieut. -General Sir Douglas Haig was appointed to com- 
mand the I. Corps ; Lieut. -General Sir James Grierson, the 
II. Corps ; Lieut. -General W. P. Pulteney, the III. Corps ; 
and Major-General E. H. H. Allenby, the Cavalry Division. 
The six divisions were to be commanded by Major-Generals 
S. H. Lomax, C. C. Monro, H. I. W. Hamilton, T. D'O. 
Snow, Sir C. Fergusson and J. L. Keir. 


At 4 P.M. on the 4th August, as already stated, the order 
for mobilization of the Expeditionary and Territorial Forces 
was issued by the British Government, the 5th August 
being declared " the first day of mobilization." As a matter 
of fact, mobilization occurred at an extremely awkward 
moment, for the 3rd August had been Bank Holiday and, 
as usually is the case in the middle of summer. Territorial 
units were in the act of moving to various camps for their 
annual training when the orders cancelling it arrived. 
Hence arose the question whether the existing time-tables 
for concentration should stand, or whether the movements 
by railway should be postponed. The Cabinet decided for 
a short postponement, and gave orders, as already men- 
tioned, that the embarkation of the Expeditionary Force 
should not begin until the 9th, although " the advanced 
parties " were to proceed on the 7th. Meantime the 
mobilization of the various units proceeded with the 
smoothness which had been anticipated. In all essentials 
everything went " according to plan " ; and even the 
task of collecting 120,000 horses was accomplished within 
twelve days. Embarkation was conducted upon the 
principle that every train-load should be a complete unit 
or subdivision of a unit, so that upon arrival in France 
after its passage, it should be self-contained and in possession 

^ Appendix 8. 


of enough transport to go straight into a rest-camp or into 
another train. The ports of embarkation were as follows : 

Southampton — all troops in Great Britain ; Avon- 
mouth — motor transport and petrol ; Newhaven — stores 
and supplies ; Liverpool — frozen meat and motor transport ; 
Glasgow — a few details ; and Dublin, Cork and Belfast for 
the 5th and 6th Divisions. 

The ships were also divided into classes : (1) personnel 
ships ; (2) horse and vehicle ships ; (3) motor transport 
ships ; (4) store ships. 

The ports of disembarkation in France were : Havre, 
Rouen and Boulogne. 

In the five days of greatest activity 1,800 special trains 
were run in Great Britain and Ireland ; on the busiest day 
of all, eighty trains, containing the equivalent of a division, 
were run into Southampton Docks ; the daily average of 
ships despatched was thirteen, with an average daily tonnage 
of about 52,000 tons gross. At first the transports were 
despatched singly as they were ready, both by day and by 
night ; for, as yet, there was no menace by German sub- 
marines, and the measures taken by the Navy gave absolute 
security.^ Everything went regularly and smoothly, and 
the official programme was carried out to the letter ; but 
there was little margin to spare. 

To his embarking troops, H.M. the King sent the 
following message : — 

" You are leaving home to fight for the safety and honour 
" of my Empire. 

" Belgium, whose country we are pledged to defend, 
" has been attacked, and France is about to be invaded by 
" the same powerful foe. 

" I have implicit confidence in you, my soldiers. Duty 
" is your watchword, and I know your duty will be nobly 
" done. 

" I shall follow your every movement with deepest 
*' interest and mark with eager satisfaction your daily 
" progress ; indeed, your welfare will never be absent from 
" my thoughts. 

" I pray God will bless you and guard you, and bring 
" you back victorious." 

Meanwhile the situation in Belgium ^ and on the French 

^ See " Naval Operations," i. p. 72 et seq. 

* The Belgian Official Account has been published serially in the 
" Bulletin Beige des Sciences Militaires," but no doubt will shortly be 
available in book form. 

LII^GE 33 

frontier was developing rapidly. When during the night 4-5 Aug. 
of the 3rd/4th August, it became clear that the Germans ^^^*- 
intended to advance through Belgium, with or without 
permission, the Belgian Staff at once took the measures 
necessary for the defence of their country's neutrality 
against Germany. The 3rd Division, supported by the Map i. 
fortifications of Liege, was to check the German advance ; 
and, under cover of the 3rd Division, the 1st, 2nd, 5th 
and 6th Divisions were to move to the line of the river 
Gette, the Cavalry Division and detachments from Liege 
and Namur screening the movement. This position covered 
a considerable part of Belgium, Brussels and the com- 
munications with Antwerp. The concentration began on 
the 4th August, and by the morning of the 6th the Belgian 
Army was in position two marches west of Liege, in the 
area Tirlemont (1st Division), Perwez (5th Division), 
Louvain (2nd Division) and Wavre (6th Division). 

On the morning of the 4th, when German cavalry 
crossed the Belgian frontier and moved upon Vise, north 
of Liege, it found the bridge over the Meuse broken, and 
the western bank held by Belgian troops. Two regiments 
were then pushed northward to Lixhe (3 miles north 
of Vise), where they crossed the river by a ford. The 
Belgians, finding their left threatened, thereupon fell back 
on Liege. By evening the heads of six small German 
columns of all arms which had crossed the frontier were 
nearly two miles into Belgium. Further concentrations 
were also reported to the south ; and it became evident 
that a very large army threatened invasion along the lines 
of advance guarded by the fortress of Liege and by the 
3rd Division. 

Liege ^ 

On the 5th August, the Germans, having bridged the 
Meuse at Lixhe, pushed forward patrols to Tongres (about ten 
miles N.N.W. of Liege), and the commander-in-chief of the 
invading troops. General von Emmich {X. Corps), demanded 
free passage through Liege. This being at once refused, he 
attempted to seize the place by a coup de main. His troops 
consisted of six infantry brigades (at frontier peace strength)^ 
provided by the ///., IV., VII., IX., X. and XI. Corps, 
each with a squadron of cavalry, a battery of artillery, a 
battalion of Jdger (Rifles), and cyclists attached to it. 

^ See " La Bataille de Liege " (Belgian Official Account) and " Liittich- 
Namur." ^ See, however, page 54, para. 3 of Note I. 



5-16 Aug. Two of the six batteries had field guns, and the other four, 

1914. f^gj(j howitzers. Besides this force, General von Emmich 

had at his disposal two heavy mortar batteries and General 

von der Marwitz's cavalry corps, comprising the 2nd, 4th 

and 9th Cavalry Divisions. 

After an unsuccessful attempt had been made to kidnap 
the commandant of Liege, General von Emmich gave 
orders for a night attack. His general plan was to make a 
demonstration against the forts with a few companies, and 
to send the six brigades through the intervals between the 
forts to secure the town and citadel, and then to fall upon 
the forts from the rear. This attack was delivered soon after 
nightfall in five columns ; one from the north ; one from the 
north-east (two brigades which took different routes) ; one, 
the central column, from the east ; and two from the south. 
The first two columns, for the most part, lost their way, 
and fell back after suffering heavy losses, though one 
battalion penetrated into Liege and was there captured. 
Of the two southern columns, one halted, having casualties 
so severe as to forbid further progress, and the other was 
seized with panic, the men firing upon each other. The 
central column met with serious resistance, the brigadier 
and the commander of the leading regiment being killed. 
It was on the point of falling back when Major-General 
Ludendorff, who, as Deputy Chief of the General Staff of 
the Second Army, was with General von Emmich watching 
the operations, came up and, taking command, pushed on. 
He was specially interested, for he had planned these very 
operations in peace when Chief of the Operations Section 
of the Great General Staff. After giving his men a rest, 
he renewed the attack in the forenoon of the 6th, and 
advanced until his leading troops were within a mile of 
Liege. Though unsupported by the other columns, he 
decided to make a dash for the citadel, and on advancing 
found practically no opposition. The Belgian Staff, an- 
ticipating that the 3rd Division might be surrounded, 
had withdrawn it to the Gette ; so the Germans found 
themselves in possession of the town of Liege. 

The true siege of the fortress then began. Marwitz's 
cavalry corps worked round to the western side of the 
defences, and the German artillery shelled the forts. On 
the 12th, 42-cm. howitzers were brought up, and the last 
of the forts fell at 8.30 a.m. on the 16th. General Leman, 
the commandant, was taken unconscious from under a heap 
of wreckage and made prisoner. Liege was lost, but by 



delaying the German advance it had rendered transcendent 10-20 Aug. 
service to the cause of Belgium's Allies.^ 1914- 

Whilst the siege was in progress, on the 10th, German sketches 
cavalry and Jciger ^ appeared before the line of the Gette, 1 & 3. 
and gradually extended their front northwards as far as ^ g^"^ ^' ^ 
Hasselt (18 miles north-east of Tirlemont) and Diest 
(12 miles north of Tirlemont). On the 12th six German 
cavalry regiments, with three horse-batteries and two 
Jdger battalions attacked the line of the Gette at Haelen, a 
little to the south-east of Diest, and made some progress, 
but were ultimately driven back by the Belgians, with 
appreciable loss, after ten hours of sharp fighting. 

German troops, however, continued to pour into Bel- 
gium, and by the 17th the space between the Meuse, the 
Demer and the Gette was occupied by them in strength, 
in spite of the fact that the Belgian Army, assisted by the 
Garde Civique, had systematically obstructed the roads 
and destroyed the bridges. The right flank of the line of 
the Gette was already threatened, and columns to support 
the turning movement were passing the Meuse at Huy, 
where the bridge, blown up by the Belgians, had been re- 
paired. On the 18th, the Germans again attacked and 
carried Haelen, and also entered Tirlemont. They then 
fell upon the front and left flank of the Belgian 1st Division, 
and only by hard fighting were held at bay. The Gette 
position was now evidently in imminent danger. It was 
certain that the German //., IV. and IX. Corps, covered 

^ The time gained to the Allies would appear to have been about four or 
five days. According to Kluck (pp. 10-19), his three leading corps were 
on the line Kermpt — Stevort — Gorssum, forty miles (say three marches) 
west of Aix la Chapelle, on the night of the 17th. They had begun to 
arrive in the concentration area north-east of Aix on the 7th. Had 
Liege offered no opposition and had they at once marched off into Belgium, 
there seems no reason why the II., III. and IV. Corps should not have 
reached the above line on the 10th, and completed concentration there 
on the 12th or 13th — four or five days earlier than was the case. The 
six composite brigades and cavalry corps which attacked Liege were 
available to cover the concentration. Even on the 10th August the German 
Supreme Command hoped to commence the advance on the 13th, five 
days earlier than was possible (Biilow, pp. 11, 12). According to post-war 
German publications however, e.g. " Graf Schlieffen und der Weltkrieg " 
by Foerster, the German time-table made the armies reach the line Thion- 
ville — Sedan — Mons, on the 22nd day of mobilization (23rd August), and Sketch 
they were actually slightly ahead of it ; but this is accounted for by the 
hasty retreat of the French Armies after the first contact. Belgian opinion 
is that at least four days were gained (" Bulletin Beige des Sciences Mili- 
taires," Sept. 1921). See also Note II. at end of Chapter. 

^ It must be borne in mind that a German cavalry division was a 
mixed force of all arms, with two or more Jdger (Rifle) battalions included. 
(See Plate 1.) 


Aug. 1914. by the 2nd and 4th Cavalry Divisions were opposite the 
Belgian left between Diest and Tirlemont ; whilst the 
Guard, X. and VII. Corps were marching against the 
Belgian right on a front from Jodoigne (7 miles S.S.W. 
of Tirlemont) to Namur. It was also known that the 
Active corps were being followed by Reserve formations, 
namely, in the First Army by the ///., IV. and IX. 
Reserve Corps ; in the Second Army by the Guard, VII. 
and X. Reserve Corps ; and in the Third Army by the 
XII. Reserve Corps. The French and the British, as will be 
seen, were neither of them yet at hand to render assistance ; 
and it was hopeless for the Belgians to think of contending 
against odds of four or five to one. Accordingly, on the 
evening of the 18th, the five Belgian divisions were skilfully 
drawn off from the Gette north-westward to Antwerp, and 
on the 20th entered the lines of that fortress without 
being seriously molested. There, on the flank of the Ger- 
mans if they advanced westward, and in their rear if they 
should turn southward, the Belgian Army remained — an 
effective menace to the enemy. ^ 

Namur ^ 

Further to the south, about Namur, where the Belgian 
4th Division was stationed, German cavalry patrols were 
in touch with the Belgian cavalry to the north of the 
fortress on the 5th August, and to the south-east of it on 
the 7th. But it was not until nearly a fortnight later that 
the main bodies of the enemy approached ; meanwhile, 
on the 19th, the garrison had been joined by the Belgian 
8th Brigade which, finding itself completely isolated at 
Huy, had blown up the bridge over the Meuse there and 
fallen back on Namur. On that day the Guard Reserve 
Corps of the German Second Army appeared on the north 

^ According to Hansen, the commander of the Third Army (" Marne- 
schlacht," p. 244, f.n.), the III. Reserve Corps and IX. Reserve Corps 
were originally detailed to push forward to the coast " direction Calais," 
but this order was cancelled when the Belgian Army went into Antwerp, 
and both corps were sent to watch the fortress. Later, in early September, 
the XV. Corps was detained near Brussels on account of a sortie being 
expected from Antwerp. These three corps were absent from the Battle 
of the Marne, though the IX. Reserve and XV. Corps reached the Aisne in 
time to oppose the Allied advance. There were further employed at 
Antwerp : the 4th Ersatz Division (sent from the Sixth Army), the 1st 
Ersatz Reserve Division, a Matrosen division, the 26th and 37th Landwehr 
Brigades, besides heavy artillery and engineers. 

^ See " La Defense de la Position Fortifiee de Namur " (Belgian official 
work), and " Liittich-Namur." 


of the fortress, and the XI. Corps, consisting of the 22nd 5-23 Aug. 
and 38th Divisions, of the Third Army, on the south-east, i^^"*- 
the whole under the command of General von Gallwitz. 
With these troops was a large proportion of heavy artillery, 
including four batteries of Austrian 30-5-cm. mortars and 
one battery of Krupp's 42-cm. howitzers. 

On the 20th August, the Germans drove in the Belgian 
outposts, but this time instead of attempting a coup de main, 
waited for their heavy guns which on the 21st opened fire 
on the eastern and south-eastern forts. The Belgian com- 
mandant was powerless either to keep these monster howit- 
zers at a distance or to silence them by counter-batteries. 
Before evening two of the principal forts had been very 
seriously damaged ; within another twenty-four hours both 
were practically destroyed. Two Belgian counter-attacks 
on the 22nd August failed ; and by the evening of the 23rd 
the northern and eastern fronts had been laid bare, and 
five out of the whole circle of nine forts were in ruins. At 
midnight the 4th Division and the mobile garrison with- 
drew southwards, losing 5,500 men but just escaping the 
clutches of the enemy who was closing round the fortress ; 
so they made good their escape into France, whence later 
they rejoined the main Belgian Army at Antwerp. 

Thus for eighteen days the Belgians had faced the 
German invasion, delaying the hostile advance during a 
most critical period, and gaining time which was of price- 
less value to the Allies. In addition to this great strategic 
advantage, the fact that the first German operations 
against fortresses, conducted under the conditions obtain- 
ing in modern warfare, were so rapidly successful gave 
warning to the French to readjust their conceptions of the 
defensive value of their fortified front, and reorganize it on 
lines calculated to counter the effect of bombardment by 
heavy howitzers. 

The Operations of the French ^ 

(Sketch 2 ; Maps 1, 2 «fe 5) 

On the 2nd August, the day of the presentation to Sketch 2. 
Belgium of the German ultimatum, the French Commander- 

1 F.O.A., i. (i.) pp. 87, 93, 134 ; also General Joffre's statement to the 
Parliamentary Commission d'Enquete : Defense du bassin de Briey ; the 
very lucid commentary on this Commission, by its rapporteur, M. Fernand 
Engerand, entitled " La Bataille de la Frontidre " ; and the official pub- 
lication " Quatre Mois de Guerre : Rapport sur I'ensemble des operations 
du 2 aout au 2 decenibre 1914." 


2-12 Aug. in-Chief decided to use " the alternative concentration 
1914. " areas " for the Fourth and Fifth Armies, so as to inter- 
polate the former in the general line, and extend the left 
wing further towards the north. 
Map 1. On the 3rd, in view of the German violation of Luxem- 
bourg territory, General Joffre ordered Sordet's cavalry 
corps to push forward next day to the east of Mezieres, but 
telephoned to its commander and to the Army commanders 
insisting " on the imperious obligation " not to cross the 
frontier ; " if there are incidents," he said, " they must 
" only arise and develop on French territory." On the 
evening of the 4th, twenty-four hours after the German 
declaration of war and twelve hours after German cavalry 
had advanced into Belgium, King Albert authorized the 
French to enter his territory for the purpose of ascertaining 
the direction of advance of the Germans and of delaying 
their columns. General Sordet crossed the frontier on the 
6th and moved first towards Neufchateau (36 miles east 
of Mezieres). Then, striking north, he eventually arrived 
within nine miles of Liege ; but, finding that the Belgian 
field troops had been withdrawn from the area of the for- 
tress, he retired on the 10th in the direction of the Meuse. 
Valuable information was obtained by him as to the 
enemy's movements from an officer who was captured on 
the 9th, but otherwise the intelligence gained in the 
strategic reconnaissance was negative; neither did the 
latter achieve its secondary object of delaying the enemy's 
advance ; for, owing to the resistance of Liege, no important 
columns of German troops had at the time entered the 
area explored. 

To fill the gap between the French Fifth Army and the 
Belgian troops defending Namur, a French infantry regi- 
ment was sent on the 8th to occupy all the bridges on the 
Meuse north of Dinant and gain touch with the Belgians ; 
^ and the I. Corps extended its protective troops along the 

Meuse from Mezieres to Givet. On the 13th the whole 
I. Corps was sent northwards " to oppose any attempts of 
" the enemy to cross the Meuse between Givet and Namur." 
On the 15th, in conjunction with General Mangin's 8th 
Brigade (specially detailed to support the cavalry corps), 
it repulsed an attempt of Richthofen's cavalry corps {Guard 
and 5th Cavalry Divisions) to cross near Dinant. 

Between the 6th and 8th August, it became certain that 
an enemy force containing units belonging to five different 
army corps was operating against Liege ; but the main 


group of the German Armies appeared to the French is-iGAuj 
General Staff to be around Metz, in front of Thionville and ^^^^• 
in Luxembourg. The enemy was thus, it was thought, in 
a position either to advance westwards if Liege fell, or if 
Liege held out to wheel southwards, pivoting on Metz. A 
decision was therefore made by General Joffre, and com- 
municated to the French Armies on the 8th August,^ to the 
effect that his intention was to bring the Germans to battle 
with all his forces united, as in the original plan, with his 
right extended to the Rhine. If necessary, the left of the 
line would be held back, so as to avoid the premature 
engagement of one of the Armies before the others could 
come to its assistance. If, however, the enemy's right 
were delayed in front of Liege, or turned southwards, the 
left would be advanced. General directions were issued as 
to the objectives and zones of action for the Armies, the 
Fifth being ordered to remain concentrated so as to be in 
a position either to prevent an enemy passage of the Meuse 
between Mouzon (20 miles above Mezieres) and Mezieres, 
or to cross itself between those two places. The instruc- 
tions ended with an order to make all preparations so that 
the movement could be carried out on receipt of a telegram, 
and to render the offensive crushing (foudroyante). 

On the 13th General Joffre came to the conclusion that 
the enemy was wheeling south towards the Third, Fourth 
and Fifth Armies on the Upper Meuse, and it was too late 
for them to seek battle beyond that river " under good 
" conditions." He directed them to be prepared to counter- 
attack. He paid no heed to the view of General Lanrezac 
(Fifth Army), that the enemy wheel was of a much wider 

Meantime in Alsace, " to facilitate the attack of the 
" main Armies," the small offensive — outlined in the original 
plan — was commenced on the extreme right by a detach- 
ment of the First Army, consisting of the VII. Corps 
and 8th Cavalry Division. This detachment crossed the 
frontier on the 6th August. After its advanced guard had 
reached Mulhausen, it found itself in the presence of 
superior forces, and was withdrawn. On the 14th the offen- 
sive was renewed with a stronger force, called the Army 
of Alsace, consisting of the VII. Corps, and the Alpine 
and three Reserve divisions, under General Pau. On the 
same date the First and Second Armies began their forward 

^ In Instruction No. 1, dated 8th August 1914, 7 a.m. F.O.A., i. (i.) 
Annexe No. 103. 


\ug. 1914. movement across the frontier. P'or the Armies on the left 
only certain precautions were ordered. But during the 
afternoon of the 15th, news came from the Belgian Army 
that 200,000 Germans were crossing the Meuse below Vise, 
and from the I. Corps of the attack at Dinant ; the Grand 
Quartier General (G.Q.G.) in consequence ordered the Fifth 
Army to hand over to the Fourth Army its right corps 
(II.) and Group of Reserve divisions, which were guarding 
the Meuse in touch with the I. Corps, and take the rest 
of its forces northwards across the Belgian frontier into 
the angle of the Meuse and the Sambre to the region of 
Mariembourg (24 miles north by west of Mezieres) or 
Philippeville (33 miles north of Mezieres), " to act in concert 
" with the British Army and the Belgian forces against the 
"enemy forces in the north." G.Q.G. placed Sordet's 
cavalry corps and Valabregue's Group of Reserve divisions, 
then at Vervins (36 miles west of Mezieres), under the Fifth 
Army, and also ordered to it two recently arrived African 
divisions and the XVIII. Corps, originally in the Second 
Army, from the general reserve.^ 

In order to leave the Third Army entirely free to con- 
centrate its attention on offensive operations the duty of 
masking Metz was given to a new force, the Army of 
Lorraine, composed of three Reserve divisions from the 
Third Army and three others sent up for the purpose ; 
General Maunoury, who had originally been on the Italian 
frontier, was given command of it. There was thus a 
general taking of ground to the left. 

The French general plan of operations now began to 

take definite shape as cumulative evidence showed that the 

main German advance was in progress through Belgium, 

Map 2. The situation as it presented itself to G.Q.G. on the 16th 

August was as follows : 

In the north, seven or eight German army corps and four 
cavalry divisions are endeavouring to pass westwards between 
Givet and Brussels, and even beyond these points. 

^ To make the changes clear, they are enumerated together here : 

The Third Army was reinforced by one Reserve division, and then by 
two more. 

The Fourth Army took over from the Fifth Army : II. Corps ; XI. 
Corps ; 52nd and 60th Reserve Divisions (leaving it the 51st) ; a cavalry 
division ; and the Moroccan Division from the IX. Corps of the Second Army. 

The Fifth Army, to make up for this, received the 37th and 38th 
Divisions from Africa ; the XVIII. Corps from the Second Army ; and 
General Valabregue's Group of three Reserve divisions. So that the corps 
it now contained were the I., III., X. and XVIII., with the 37th Division 
added to the III. and the 38th to the X. 


In the centre between Bastogne and Thionville there were Aug, 1914, 
thought to be six or seven army corps, and two or three cavalry 

South of Metz, the Germans appeared to be on the 

General Joffre's intention now was to make the principal 
attack with the Third and Fourth Armies through Luxem- 
bourg and Belgian Luxembourg, so as to strike at the flank 
and communications of the enemy forces which had crossed 
the Meuse between Namur and the Dutch frontier, and if 
possible attack them before they could deploy for battle 
by wheeling south. To support this offensive the First 
and Second Armies were to make only a secondary attack 
between Metz and the Vosges, for the purpose of holding 
the enemy, who seemed to be gradually shifting westwards 
and might otherwise be able to take in flank the French 
Armies attacking in Luxembourg. Lastly, the left wing, 
consisting of the Fifth Army, the British Army when it 
should arrive, and the Belgian Army, was to move up so 
as to hold in check any German forces which might ad- 
vance from the Meuse, and so gain sufficient time to allow 
the attack of the Third and Fourth Armies to become 
effective. In order to give weight to the attack, the Third 
and Fourth Armies were somewhat strengthened. ^ 

In brief, General Joffre's first object was to break the 
enemy's centre ; that done he intended to fall with all 
available forces on the right or western wing of the German 

The instructions which he sent out on the 20th were as 20 Aug. 
follow : 1^1^- 

To General Ruffey : 

" The Third Army will begin its offensive movement 

^ The German Order of Battle was given as follows : 

" Two Armies of the Meuse under the orders of General von Biilow 
" are operating in front of the Fifth Army ; one comprises the VII., IX. 
" and X. Corps, the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions ; the other is said to 
'• be formed of the III., IV., VI. and XI. Corps and two cavalry divisions, 
" Guard and 5th. 

" There is no precise information of the great concentration in Belgium 
" and Belgian Luxembourg. It is believed that there is in Belgian Luxem- 
" bourg one Army commanded by General von Heeringen, including the 
" Guard, XII. and XIX. Corps and a cavalry division ; and between 
" Luxembourg and Thionville a fourth Army under General von Eichhorn, 
" in which are grouped the VIII., XVI. and XVIII. Corps, and the 3rd 
" and 6th Cavalry Divisions.''' 

This, except for the commanders' names, was not far from the mark ; 
but there is no mention of the Reserve corps. (See page 36.) 

^ See footnote on previous page. 


20 Aug. " to-morrow in the general direction of Arlon. . . . The 
1914. " mission of the Third Army is to counter-attaek any 
" enemy force which may try to gain the right flank of the 
" Fourth Army." 

To General de Langle of the Fourth Army, he tele- 
graphed : 

" I authorize you to send strong advanced guards of 
" all arms to-night to the general line Bertrix — Tintigny 
" to secure the debouchment of your Army beyond the 
*' Semoy. . . . The general direction of the movement will 
" be Neufchateau." 

The positions on the morning of the 20th indicate the 
preliminary movements which had been made for the 
purpose. They were : 

The Army of Alsace had reached Miilhausen. 
The First and Second Armies were across the frontier in front 
of Luneville and Nancy, from near Sarrebourg to Delme, 
about thirtv-six miles north-west of Sarrebourg. 
The Army of Lorraine was observing Metz. 
The Third and Fourth Armies were close up to the Belgian 
frontier, astride the river Chiers, from near Longwy to 
Map 5. Sedan, ready to cross the river Semoy. 

The Fifth Army was disposed : 

The I. Corps and 8th Infantry Brigade on the Meuse, 
near Dinant, facing east, with 

The 51st Reserve Division marching up from the south 
to act as a link between the French Fourth and Fifth 

The X. and III. Corps, each with an African division 
attached to it, lay in depth close up to the Sambre near 
Charleroi, facing north. 

The XVIII. Corps was echeloned to the left rear on 
the line Gozee — Thuin (6 miles and 9 miles south-west 
of Charleroi). 

General Valabregue's two remaining Reserve divisions 
were on the left of the XVIII. Corps and north-east of 
Maubeuge, on the east of the gap into which General Joffre 
intended the British Army should move. 

Further to the west and beyond the space to be occupied 
by the British, were three Territorial divisions under 
General d'Amade, sent up on the 14th, the 84th near Douai, 
the 82nd near Arras, and the 81st between Hazebrouck 
and St. Omer. 

It will be observed that the front of the Fifth Army 
under General Lanrezac along the Meuse and Sambre 


formed a salient, with its apex just short of the Belgian 20-2iAug. 
fortress of Namur, on which by the evening of the 20th 1914. 
the Germans were closing. Consequently, any failure of 
his right to hold its ground on the Meuse would place his 
centre and left in a very dangerous situation, and render 
them liable to be cut off. 

On the 20th, however, before the general advance had 
begun, misfortunes had already overtaken the French. 
According to the bulletins originally issued : " The First 
" and Second Armies, tired by several days of marching and 
" fighting, came up against strongly organized positions, 
" armed with powerful artillery, whose fire was admirably 
" prepared and corrected by aeroplanes." This, however, 
was not quite the case. The Germans [Sixth Army) had 
at first withdrawn before the Second Army, and the latter, 
with the XX. Corps under General Foch on the left, had 
on the 18th followed in pursuit. Early in the morning of 
the 20th the enemy had come forward again and attacked 
the Second Army in front and left flank ; it had been 
compelled to retire and the First Army had to conform to 
its movements. The actions in which the First and Second 
Armies were engaged are known as the battles of Sarrebourg 
and Morhange (25 miles north-west of Sarrebourg). ^ 

On the 21st August, in spite of this reverse to the 
French right wing, the Third and Fourth Armies crossed 
the frontier and advanced from ten to fifteen miles into 
the difficult Ardennes country, an area of rough hills and 
deep river valleys, covered by forests broken only by 
narrow belts of pasture land. Aeroplanes could see nothing, 
the cavalry could not get forward, and in the defiles, 
which the roads through the villages and forests con- 
stitute, the French columns ran literally at right angles 
into German columns belonging to the Armies of the 
German Crown Prince and Duke Albert of Wiirttemberg, 
numerically slightly superior to them,^ which were crossing 
their front. After fighting the actions known as the battles 

1 It may be added here that an attempted pursuit of the Second Army 
by the Germans received a serious check on the 25th ; for, in spite of the 
reverse, the French First Army returned to the offensive and struck them 
in flank. After some indecisive fighting, the situation of the French 
First and Second Armies became stabihzed on a Une in France, just inside 
tlie frontier. 

2 French. German. 

Third Army . . . 168,000 Fifth Army . . . 200,000 
Fourth Army . . . 193,000 Fourth Army . . . 180,000 

361,000 380,000 


21 Aug. of Virton and of the Semoy,i having suffered heavy losses, 
1914. particularly in officers, the Third and Fourth Armies were 
compelled to fall back towards the Meuse. The attempt 
to break in the German centre before the right wing could 
deliver its blow against the Allied left wing had thus failed, 
owing to the French having neglected to adapt their method 
of advance to the nature of the ground (an advance by 
bounds from the edge of one open belt to another does not 
appear to have been considered) ; to their having been 
caught in column in narrow defiles and thus unable to use 
their artillery with effect ; and to their line of advance 
having brought them head-on to the broadside of the 
German columns. Thanks however to a premature en- 
veloping attack attempted by the German Crown Prince 
the reverse was less serious than it might otherwise have 

As regards the French Fifth Army, General Lanrezac 
had considered it inadvisable to advance simultaneously 
with the Armies on his right. He preferred to wait until 
his reinforcements should have arrived, which would not 
be until the 23rd ; ^ until the Fourth Army should have 
cleared the gorges of the Semoy and shortened by its ad- 
vance the eastern face of the salient which the front of the 
Fifth Army presented to the enemy ; and until the British 
Army should similarly have come up on his left. As will 
presently be seen, Sir John French's force on the 21st was 
approaching the line of the Mons — Conde canal. The 
general situation in which it was about to play its part may 
be thus summarized : — 

The French First and Second Armies were retiring after 
the battles of Sarrebourg and Morhange ; 

The Third and Fourth " had failed, and the reverse seemed 
serious " ; 

The Fifth Army was in a salient about to be attacked by 
two German Armies ; 

Namur was on the point of falling (the last fort surrendered 
on the 25th) ; and 

The Belgian Army had been driven into Antwerp.^ 

1 There are vivid accounts of these actions in Commandant Grasset's 
" Ethe," " Virton " and " Neufchateau." 

2 See page 40. 

* The French tactical doctrine — infantry attack head down, regardless 
of fire and of artillery support — had proved so totally unsuited to modern 
warfare that on 24th August the following note was issued to all the 
French Armies over General Joffre's signature : — • 

" It has been noticed in the information collected with regard to the 


Operations of the Germans ^ 

Leaving only three Active corps and three Reserve i7 Aug. 
divisions, assisted by a cavalry division, one Ersatz division ^^i^- 
and Landwehr formations, some 250,000 men in all, on her sketch i . 
Eastern frontier, where she had the co-operation of the ^^^ps i 
Austro-Hungarian Army, and the IX. Reserve Corps (until 
the 23rd August) and Landwehr formations in Sehleswig 
to guard against a possible landing, Germany had assembled 
the rest of her available mobile troops on her Western 
frontier in seven Armies,^ with Generaloberst von Moltke 
as Chief of the General Staff and practically in command. 

By the evening of the 17th August these Armies were 
concentrated, ready to move, on a long front extending 
from the fortress of Strasbourg to the Dutch frontier north 
of Liege. This front ran through Sarrebourg, Metz and 
Thionville ; ^ up the centre of the Duchy of Luxembourg 
(the neutrality of which had been violated on the 2nd 
August), to Liege ; and then to the north-west of this 
fortress, where the northernmost German Army, Kluck's, 

" actions which have so far taken place that attacks have not been carried 
" out with close co-operation between the infantry and the artillery. 

" Every combined operation includes a series of detailed actions aiming 
" at the capture of the points d'appui. 

" Each time that it is necessary to capture a point d'appui the attack 
" must be prepared with artillery, the infantry must be held back and not 
" launched to the assault until the distance to be covered is so short that 
" it is certain the objective will be reached. Every time that the infantry 
" has been launched to the attack from too great a distance before the 
" artillery has made its effect felt, the infantry has fallen under the fire of 
" machine guns and suffered losses which might have been avoided. 

" When a point d'appui has been captured, it must be organized imme- 
" diately, the troops must entrench, and artillery must be brought up." 

1 See G.O.A., i., and Note II. at end of Chapter. 

2 For Order of Battle, see Appendices 6 and 7. In round numbers 
(G.O.A. i. p. 69), 1,600,000 ; excluding 4 cavalry corps and the covering 
troops in Upper Alsace : 

First Army . . . . 

Second Army 

Third Army . 

Fourth Army 

Fifth Army . 

Sixth Army . 

Seventh Army 

. 320,000 men 
. 260,000 „ 
. 180,000 „ 
. 180,000 ,, 
. 200,000 „ 
. 220,000 „ 
. 125,000 „ 

1,485,000 „ 

In addition 6^ mobile Ersatz divisions (say another 100,000 men), which 
would be ready on the 12th day of mobilization. 

^ The continuous fortifications round and connecting these two latter 
places formed the so-called Moselle Position. 


17 Aug. was deployed facing the Belgians on the Gette. In order 
1914. ^Q reach the far side of the neutral barrier formed by the 
projecting peninsula of Dutch Limbourg, behind which it 
had been assembled, Kluck's Army had defiled in three 
columns through Aix la Chapelle. The Supreme Command 
(O.H.L.) orders directed the Armies of Kluck (First) and 
Biilow (Second), acting together under the latter general/ 
to deal with the Belgian Army, to force it away from 
Antwerp and to reach the line Namur — Brussels. The 
Fi7'st Army was to detail a detachment to mask Antwerp, 
arid by holding back its right provide against a British 
landing on the coast. Hausen's (Third) Army was to 
gain the line of the Meuse from Givet to Namur. Namur 
was to be attacked and taken as soon as possible by the 
left of the Second and the right of the Third Army. 
Meanwhile, the Fourth and Fifth Armies were to conform 
so that the whole five Armies on the right might carry out 
a gigantic wheel, first to the line Thionville— Brussels, and 
then in a south-westerly direction, Thionville still remaining 
the pivot. 

The Sixth and Seventh Armies, under the senior Army 
commander, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, were 
given as their principal task the protection of the left flank 
of the five wheeling Armies. How they could do so, said 
the instructions, depended on the action of the enemy. 
If the French, based on their fortress line, remained on 
the strategic defensive. Crown Prince Rupprecht was to 
take the offensive, " advance against the Moselle below 
" Frouard (5 miles below Nancy) and the Meurthe, hold 
" fast the French troops [First and Second Armies] as- 
" sembled there and hinder their transfer to the French 
" left wing." If, on the other hand, the French moved 
against his front in superior numbers, and he had to give 
ground, he was to retire to a prepared position on the 
Nied, which was flanked by Strasbourg and Metz. If the 
left flank of the wheeling Armies did not seem to be 
threatened, part of the Sixth and Seventh Armies might be 
withdrawn via Metz to take part in the fighting on the left 
bank of the Moselle.^ 

^ The order of the 17th August which placed Kluck under Bulow was 
cancelled on the 27th, but reissued on the 10th Sept. 

2 Crown Prince Rupjirecht had begun a retirement on 14th August, 
under the second case, keeping in touch with the outer defences of Metz ; 
but by the evening of the 17th the French Second Army in its advance 
had exposed " a long-spread and visibly thin flank towards Metz, which 
" invited a blow," and the mass of that Army was crowded together 


The strategic objective was to outflank the French by 17 Aug. 
the west and drive them eastwards against the Swiss ^^i** 
frontier. To give sufficient weight to the blow which was 
to crush the Allies' left, roll up the line from the westward 
and, in conjunction with the advance of the Third, Fourth 
and Fifth Armies, push the entire line of battle south-east 
towards neutral territory, five of the ten cavalry divisions 
and twenty-six out of the total of the whole seventy-two 
divisions on the Western Front were allotted to the two 
Armies under General von Biilow.^ 

To summarize the initial movements of the two 
belligerents, we find that the French offensive carried out 
by the Armies of Dubail and de Castelnau on the 14th 
August south of Metz " was counter-attacked by the 
" German Sixth and Seventh Armies and failed tactically " : 
the general strategic advantage too remained with the 
Germans ; for their 345,000 men, including the detachments 
in Upper Alsace, contained about 456,000 French. The 
offensive of the Armies of Ruffey and de Langle de Gary 
north of Thionville, commencing on the 21st August, en- 
countered the German Fourth and Fifth Armies, which had 
begun on the 17th to wheel forward to the line Thionville — 
Givet, so that two Armies met two Armies of about equal 
strength ; yet the French suffered a number of small 

The result of the above operations was distinctly, but Map 5. 
not decisively, in favour of the Germans. This however 
was not all. Their dispositions left three Armies, Hansen's, 
Billow's and Kluck's, comprising in all thirty-four divisions, 
free to deal with Lanrezac's Army of thirteen divisions, the 
tiny British Army of four divisions, and the almost equally 
small Belgian Army of six divisions — thirty-four divisions 
against twenty, covering a frontier destitute of natural 

between Morhange and Sarrebourg. Rupprecht therefore issued orders, 
although Moltke was in favour of letting the French come further, for 
a " lightning and surprise attack," with the result already recorded. 
(Bavarian Official Account, " Die Schlacht in Lothringen.") 

^ The density of the dilTerent German Armies on the original front on 
the 17th August is of interest : 

First Army front 18 miles, about 18,000 men per mile. 
Second „ 20 



12,000 „ 



6,000 ,, 



5,000 ,, 



3,100 „ 



3,500 „ 


obstacles, guarded only by obsolete fortresses, and with the 
shortest and most direct route to Paris behind it. 

The first step in the German plan had therefore been 
successful, as regards its objectives ; the line laid down for 
the first stage of the wheel on Thionville had been reached, 
and Liege and Namur had been taken ; it Avas unsuccessful 
only in that the Belgian Army had not been forced away 
from Antwerp, which it entered, after rear-guard fighting, 
on the 20th. Surprise has sometimes been expressed that 
the Germans did not push at least detachments to the 
Channel ports in August 1914, when there was no force 
available to oppose them except some French Territorial 
units. It would appear that they had intended to do so, 
but the necessity of investing the Belgian Army in Antwerp 
absorbed the two corps, ///. Reserve and IX. Reserve, which 
had been selected for that purpose. Besides, when the 
opening phase of the campaign was going so nearly accord- 
ing to plan, and there seemed a certainty of winning the 
war in a few days by a defeat of the French in a super- 
Sedan in the open field, it would have been strategically 
unjustifiable to divert a single man to seize a section of 
coast, which, like Italy after the battle of Austerlitz, must 
have fallen to the invaders without serious conflict directly 
the main decision had been gained. 


12 Aug. On the 12th August, the Commander-in-Chief, retain- 

Sketeh 1. ing only a small party of his immediate staff with him. 

Map 2. despatched General Headquarters (G.H.Q.) from London 

to Southampton. They crossed to Havre on the 14th, and 

proceeded by rail early on the 16th, reaching Le Cateau 

late that night. 

On the 14th August, Sir John French himself, with his 
party, left London. He arrived at Amiens soon after 
9 P.M. An hour later, General Valabregue's chief staff 
officer came to report that his group, the 53rd and 69th 
Reserve Divisions, was entrenching south of the Oise 
between Vervins and Hirson, as a second line to the French 

On the following days, 15th, 16th and 17th August, 
the Commander-in-Chief proceeded to visit, in succession, 
the French Minister of War at Paris, General Joffre at the 
Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.) at Vitry le Frangois, and 
General Lanrezac at Fifth Army Headquarters at Rethel. 


From them he learned in some detail the disposition of the i4-i7Aug. 
French forces in the angle formed by the Sambre and the ^^^4,' 
Meuse, south-west of Namur.^ General Lanrezac's Army 
was then rapidly concentrating in the area south of 
Charleroi, the I. Corps, on the right, being already massed 
between Namur and Givet ; the head of the III. Corps was 
at Philippeville, and that of the X. Corps at Bohain, midway 
between St. Quentin and Le Cateau. The XVIII. Corps 
was expected to begin arriving in the area between Bohain 
and Avesnes on the 18th and 19th. General Valabregue's 
divisions were in position, as already stated above, south of 
Avesnes. General Sordet's cavalry corps was advancing 
j again, this time north-east, from Charleroi and, if driven 
I! back, would pass to the left of the British Army. The task 
of that Army was to move northward and form the extreme 
left of the French advance. 

Throughout this period, that is to say between the 
12th and 17th August, the British troops had been passing 
across the Channel and disembarking on French soil. 
All was ready for their reception, and the welcome given 
to them by the inhabitants was enthusiastic. On the 14th 
and following days the corps and divisions began to move 
up by train to the areas of concentration, which were Sketch 4. 
arranged so that the army was assembled in a pear-shaped 
area between Maubeuge and Le Cateau, about twenty-five 
miles long from north-east to south-west, and averaging 
ten miles wide. The cavalry was at the north-eastern end, 
ready to join hands with the French Fifth Army. 

In detail, the areas were : Map 3. 

Cavalry : East of Maubeuge, Jeumont, Damousies, Cousolre. 

Divisional Headquarters, Aibes. 
II. Corps : East of Landrecies. Headquarters, Landrecies. 
3rd Division : Marbaix, Taisnieres, Noyelles. 
5th Division : Maroilles, Landrecies, Ors. 
I. Corps : East of Bohain. Headquarters, Wassigny. 
1st Division : Boue, Esqueheries, Leschelles. 
2nd Division : Grougis, Mennevret, Hannappes. 
The Royal Flying Corps, taking the field in war for the first 
time, assembled four squadrons, with 105 officers, 755 other 
ranks, and 63 aeroplanes at the aerodrome of Maubeuge ; it also 
formed an aircraft park at Amiens. 

^ As neither General Lanrezac nor Sir John French could speak or 
fully understand the other's language, a good personal accord was not, 
unfortunately, established between them at their meeting. See Lan- 
rezac's "Le Plan de Campagne fran9ais," pp. 91-2 ; French's " 1914," pp. 



20 Aug. The concentration was virtually complete on the 20th, 
1914. that is gix days late according to French reckoning, owing 
to the various delays which have been enumerated. One 
sad incident marred the progress to the scene of action, 
namely the death of Lieutenant-General Sir James Grierson, 
commanding the II. Corps, who expired suddenly in the 
train on the morning of the 17th. Sir John French asked 
that Sir Herbert Plumer might take General Grierson' s 
place ; but the Secretary of State for War decided to send 
Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. 

On the 19th August, G.H.Q. was informed that the 4th 
Division would be despatched from England immediately ; 
and it was settled that the 2/Royal Welch Fusiliers, 
1 /Scottish Rifles, 1 /Middlesex and 2/Argyll and Sutherland 
Highlanders, which had been employed on the Lines of 
Communication, should be formed into the 19th Brigade, 
under Major-General L. G. Drummond. On the same day 
the Flying Corps carried out its first reconnaissances from 
Maubeuge northward towards Brussels, and north-west over 
Tournai and Courtrai. No large bodies of troops were 
seen. On the 20th the cavalry was pushed forward as far 
as Binche on the north without encountering any enemy. 
But an aerial reconnaissance that day observed a column 
of troops stretching through Louvain as far as the eye 
could reach. This was a column of the German First 
Army. Diverting one of his corps, the ///. Reserve, 
followed later by the IX. Reserve Corps and the equivalent 
of five divisions,^ to follow the Belgian forces towards 
Antwerp, Kluck was pressing westward. On this day, the 
20th, his troops entered Brussels. It was a fateful day 
in many respects, for during its course the main Belgian 
Army retired into Antwerp, the Germans approached with- 
in decisive range of Namur, and General Joffre gave his 
orders for the general advance. 

In this great movement, the outline of which has 
already been given, the British were to advance on the 
left of the Fifth Army north-east, by way of Soignies, in 
the general direction of Nivelles. If Kluck wheeled south- 
ward from Brussels, it was not anticipated that his right 
would extend much beyond Mons, If, therefore, the British 
were in line about this place, they would be ready, when 
once General Lanrezac had passed the Sambre, to wheel 
eastward and envelop the right of the Germans. To make 
this envelopment the more certain. General Sordet's cavalry 

1 See f.n. 1, page 36. 



corps, which had on this day fallen back across the Sambre 20 Aug. 
,, to Fontaine I'Eveque (midway between Charleroi and i^^"*- 
y Binche), was directed to take position beyond the left of 
the British. Still further to the west, the three French 
Territorial divisions, under the command of General 
d'Amade, were to push gradually forward.^ 

The initiative seemed to be passing into the hands of Sketches 
the Germans, and it was urgent to ascertain by aerial and ^ *^ ^• 
other reconnaissance what use, if any, they were making of & 3^^^ 
it. IMeanwhile, in pursuance of General Joffre's plan, 
G.H.Q. on the evening of the 20th issued orders ^ for a 
movement northward during the three ensuing days. 
An attached march table gave the approximate positions 
to be reached each day. The general effect of these 
orders when executed would be that the 23rd August 
would find the Army aligned on a front, roughly facing 
north-east, from Estinne au Mont (near Binche) on the 
south-east, to Lens, eight miles north of Mons, on the north- 
west, with the Cavalry Division (Major-General E. H. H. 
Allenby) on the left, while the 5th Cavalry Brigade 
(Br.-General Sir P. W. Chetwode), having covered the 
right flank during the movement, would find itself finally 
in advance of the right front. The daily moves were to be 
as follows : 

The 5th Cavalry Brigade was to proceed on the 21st 
to the neighbourhood of Binche, the right of the line, and 
there remain ; the Cavalry Division, moving on the left 
of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, was to march level with it on the 
21st, and on the 22nd proceed to Lens, the left of the line, 
where it would halt astride the road that connects Mons and 
Ath. Covered by the cavalry, the rest of the Army was 
to advance.^ 

On the 21st the II. Corps to the line Goegnies — Bavai ; the 
I. Corps to the line Avesnes — Landrecies. 

On the 22nd the II. Corps north-westward to the line from 
Mons westward to Thulin ; the I. Corps north-eastward to the 
line Hautmont — Hargnies. 

On the 23rd the II. Corps was to wheel eastwards, so that one 
division would be in rear of the other, with the front east of 
Mons between Spiennes and St. Denis ; the I. Corps was to 
incline north-eastward and come up on the right of the II., 

^ For further information as regards General d'Amade's force, see 
Note II. at end of Chapter IV. 

^ Appendix 10. 

3 The positions of troops are always given from right to left, unless 
otherwise stated. 


on a line from Estinne au Mont westward to Harmignies (im- 
mediately south-east of Spiennes). 

21 Aug. The morning of the 21st broke thick and misty, render- 
1914. jj^g aerial reconnaissance impossible until the afternoon. 
The cavalry moved northwards early, and after reaching 
Villers St. Ghislain (six miles south-east of Mons) heard 
that German cavalry was in force five miles to the north- 
ward. A patrol which entered Mons found a similar report 
current there. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade (Br.-General 
H. de B. de Lisle), after crossing the Conde canal east of 
Mons, occupied a line on both banks from Maurage to 
Obourg. Patrols of the 9th Lancers and 4th Dragoon 
Guards sighted German patrols in the vicinity of the two 
bridges east of Mons, those of Nimy and Obourg ; but 
contact was not established. Information from peasants, 
however, pointed to the movement of considerable forces 
southward from Soignies (10 miles north-east of Mons), 

The II. Corps followed the cavalry to a line level with 
and west of Maubeuge, the 3rd Division, on the right, to 
the line Bettignies— Feignies — La Longueville, and the 5th 
Division, on the left, to the line Houdain — St. Waast — 
Gommegnies. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien reached Bavai 
from England at 4 p.m. and took over command of the 
corps. The outposts of the 9th Brigade on this evening 
overlooked the old battlefield of Malplaquet, and were 
found by the Lincolnshire Regiment which, together with 
the Royal Scots Fusiliers, had fought in the action, two 
hundred years before. 

The I. Corps simultaneously moved up to the line from 
Avesnes to Landrecies, about ten miles behind the front 
of the II., the 1st Division on the right, and the 2nd on 
the left. The day was sultry and many of the reservists 
suffered in consequence ; a considerable number of men 
were still feeling the effects of inoculation, and all found the 
hard irregular surface of the cobbled roads extremely trying 
for marching. In the afternoon the weather cleared and 
the Flying Corps was able to carry out reconnaissances. 
Map 5. It reported a large body of cavalry with some infantry 
and guns south-east of Nivelles. This intelligence was 
confirmed, and the formation identified as the German 
9th Cavalry Division, by a British intelligence officer who 
was in Nivelles when the division entered, but escaped by 
motor. The presence of two more cavalry divisions was 
ascertained ; one of them, the 2nd, had pushed parties 


far to the westward, which had reached the hne Ghent — 21 Aug. 
Audenarde, being evidently intended to explore the area ^^i^* 
as far as the sea. The other division, supposed to be 
the 4ih, was between Charleroi and Seneffe.^ These three 
cavalry divisions formed the German //. Cavalry Corps 
under General von der Marwitz.^ The main German line 
was reported as extending south-east from Grammont, 
through Enghien, Nivelles, Genappes and Sombreffe to 
Charleroi. It is now known that from right to left — that 
is to say from north-west to south-east — the order of the 
German corps was IV. (with //. echeloned behind it), 
///., IX., VII., X. and Guard Corps, with four Reserve 
corps in rear of them. The Allied High Command was 
correctly informed as to the actual number of German 
corps in Belgium ; but it could do no more than forecast 
the scope of the movement in progress. Part of Kluck's 
cavalry at least, and possibly some of his infantry had 
begun a wheel south-westwards from Brussels. Whether 
he intended to continue in that direction or sweep further 
westwards, it was as yet impossible to judge on the available 
information. On the British right, General Lanrezac's 
Army was in contact with infantry of the German Second 
Army along the whole line of the Sambre on either side 
of Charleroi, from Tamines to Pont a Celles, so that hard 
fighting in that quarter on the morrow was almost certain. 
There seemed every chance that it might spread further to 
the west. 

At 2.45 P.M. G.H.Q. ordered the cavalry to close the 
line between the French left and Mons : the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade to take up a line from the left of General Sordet's 
cavalry corps at Fontaine I'l^veque to Peronnes, in front 
of Binche, and the Cavalry Division to prolong that line 
to the canal at Boussoit (five miles east of Mons) with 
another brigade, the 3rd (Br. -General H. de la P. 
Gough). Thence patrols were to be pushed out north and 
north-east. Operation orders, issued from G.H.Q. shortly 
before midnight,^ directed that the march table issued on 
the 20th would hold good for the 22nd, with two modifica- 
tions : the outposts of the II. Corps, instead of having 

^ The 4th Cavalry Division was on the Hne mentioned about midday on 
the 20th, and on the 21st was moving westwards from Soignies towards 
Ath ; otherwise identifications were qiute correct. Poseck, Map. 

* The corps, after concentrating near Ath, was sent north-westwards 
towards the coast, in front of the right flank of the First Army, to look for 
the British army. Poseck, p. 35. 

' Appendices 11 and 12. 


their right on Mons, were now to hold an angle with Mons 
in the apex — that is from Givry north-westward to Nimy 
and thence westward along the canal to Pommeroeul ; and 
as soon as they had relieved the Cavalry Division, the latter 
was to move westward to a position in echelon behind 
the left, in the area comprised within the triangle Thulin 
— Quievrain — Baisieux, with outposts along the line of 
the canal from the left of the II. Corps to Conde. It was 
still the intention that the British Army should take the 


Alleged German Troop Movements before Mobilization 

Some further information with regard to the Potsdam Conference 
of the 5th and 6th July 1914 has been pubhshed in " Stenographisehe 
" Berichte iiber die offenthchen Verhandlungen des Untersuchungs- 
" ausschusses der verfassunggebenden deutschen Nationalver- 
" sammlung," the shorthand reports of the Commission ordered by 
the German National Assembly to take evidence on matters affecting 
critical periods of the war. One of the terms of reference was : 
" It is to be ascertained what political and military proceedings took 
" place in Berlin or Potsdam on the 5th and 6th July 1914." 

In the evidence there given, General von FalkenhajTi states that 
the Kaiser, on the afternoon of the 5th, warned him that the Army 
should be ready for all emergencies. Admiral Capelle and Admiral 
Behnke, temporary Chief of the Staff, Admiralty, were similarly 
warned ; these two officers then arranged to make such " intellectual 
" preparations " (intellektuele Vorbereitungen) as were possible without 

arousing suspicion. Admiral Behnke then describes what was done: 

the mobilization orders, etc., were carefully gone through and got 
ready, steps were taken for the immediate preparation of ships and 
auxiUary vessels, all ships filled up with fuel, the movements of ships 
arranged in accordance with the situation, etc. 

No evidence of the exact military measures taken was asked for 
or given at the Commission. An article in the " Revue Militaire 
"Generale " of September 1919, however, gives a large number of 
extracts from captured German diaries and interrogations of prisoners 
which tend to shew that inobilization orders were issued secretly 
some days before the 31st July ; men on leave were recalled, the 
brigades on the frontiers intended for the surprise of Liege were 
brought up to war strength by the recall of reservists, and Landsturm 
battalions were formed on 31st July to replace active troops in 
guarding the frontier, railways, etc. There would thus seem no 
room for doubt that in a variety of ways Germany gained a most 
valuable start of several days on her opponents. 

The above three paragraphs appeared in the original edition. 
The ReichsarcMv, however, states with reference to fhem that no 
mobilization took place in Germany before the 1st August and that 
the Landsturm in the frontier districts was called out on the same 
date, not on the 31st July : the troops employed against Liege were 
at peace strength [in 1913 the peace strength of the infantry battahons 


of the frontier regions had been raised from 663 to 800]. Movements 
of men and troops were those made in consequence of the proclamation 
of " Imminent Danger of War." 

The Reichsarchiv official history of the German railways in the 
war (" Das deutsche Feldeisenbahnwesen," i., p. 28) reads as follows : 

" As the political situation became acute, the Imperial Chancellor 
' von Bethmann-HoUweg, on the 28th July put into force, in the 
' areas near the frontier and in the Berlin railway district, ' the 
' ' augmented railway protection,' provided for times of political 
' tension. It affected principally the guarding of the more important 
' bridges, tunnels and other engineering structures on the lines 
' required for mobilization and deployment, and was carried out 
' by railway employees, assisted by the normal machinery of public 
' safety, and, so far as the watching of bridges from the water, by the 
' conservancy authorities. 

" On the same day the recall was ordered of all bodies of troops 
' absent from their garrisons which on mobilization should be ready 
' to leave ' at once ' or ' at short notice ' for the duty of frontier 
' protection or for certain definite special tasks. The return of all 
' other troops absent on marches or at training grounds followed 
' on the evening of the 29th. On this day also orders were issued 
' for the military guarding of the larger bridges and engineer struc- 
' tures on the railways and waterways in the frontier areas. 

" On the 30th July the state of ' Alert ' for the German fleet 
' was ordered ; this required the provision of a few trains for the 
' Active troops detailed for the protection of the North Sea islands. 
' On the proclamation of ' Imminent Danger of War ' at 1 p.m. on 
' the 31st July, all the measures settled on in times of peace for the 
' military guarding of the railways came into force." 

General von Moser (commander of the 53rd Brigade) in his 
' Kampf und Siegestage 1914 " (Mittler, Berlin, 1915), page 1, says : 

" On the 29th July early the order ' Return to Garrison ' reached 
' us on the troop training ground, where we had assembled on the 
' previous day for regimental and brigade training. On the 1st 
' August ' Last Preparations for taking the Field.' On the 2nd 
' August (first day of mobilization) the brigade, reinforced by a 
' squadron and 3 batteries, left at 9 a.m. on frontier protection duty." 

The regimental history of the Isl Jdger Battalion, " Im Yorckschen 
Geist," pages 5-6, contains the following : 

" It was a relief to everyone from the company commander to 
' the youngest rifleman when on the 30th July the commanding 
' officer, Lieut. -Colonel Modrow, suddenly paraded the battalion on 
' the barrack square, announced the state of ' Imminent Danger 
' ' of War ' [not publicly proclaimed until next day], and in glowing 
' words reminded officers, N.C.O.'s and men of their oath and their 
' duty to their country. With heavy heart, he at the same time 
' bade farewell to the battalion. He was entrusted with the com- 
' mand of the 59th Reserve Infantry Regiment. Major Weigeit 
' succeeded him in command of the battalion. The companies were 
' on the spot clothed and equipped for war. Every man received 
' 150 rounds of ammunition. , . . In exactly two hours the battalion 
' was ready to march off. . . . The four companies marched about 
' 2 P.M. to occupy the line of obstacles (Hindernislinie) which ran 
' parallel to the frontier, a few kilometres east of Ortelsburg, through 
' the thick woods, and was intended, in case of war, to offer the 


" first resistance to the Russian advanced troops. . . . The machine- 
" gun company and cycHst company remained in Ortelsburg in 
" alarm quarters at the disposal of the battalion commander. Here, 
" as in the blockhouse line in front, an always increasing state of 
" nervous tension soon made itself observed." 

In the market place of Treis, on the Moselle, a place visited by 
British officers during the occupation of the Rhineland, is a War 
Memorial to 302 men of the village, on which appears the words : 

" Auf dieser Stelle traten an 31.7.14 abends um 8| Uhr unsere 
" ersten Kampfer ein." (" On this spot our first fighting men fell 
" in at 8.30 p.m. on the 31.7.14.") 

If the date is correct these men " fell in " two days before the 
first day of mobilization. 

In the captured papers of Captain von Papen (in 1914 German 
military attache at Washington) was found a letter from a bank, 
the Disconto-Gesellschaft, Potsdam branch, signed " R. Mimel," 
dated 25th July 1914 (postmark, Potsdam 7 p.m. of same day), in 
which occurs the sentence : " We have never before seen such 
" preparations for war as are being made at present." ^ 


The Schlieffen Plan " 

The strategical conception underlying the initial deployment of 
the German Armies on the Western Front, and the invasion of 
Luxembourg, Belgium and France, were founded on what is known 
as the " ScWieffen Plan." Field-Marshal Graf Alfred Schlieffen 
became Chief of the Prussian General Staff in 1890, in almost im- 
mediate succession to Moltke tlje elder, Graf Waldersee having held 
the post for a little over one year between them. Just before vacating 
office in favour of Moltke the younger, in December 1905, Schlieffen 
drew up a Memoir (Denkschrift) for the benefit of his successor. He 
had already, ten years earlier, departed from the basis of Moltke 
the elder's plan in the event of a two-front war, which was to attack 
Russia and stand on the defensive in the Western theatre. The Memoir 
has never been published in extenso : only extracts from it are given 
in the German Official Account ; but some other parts of it have 
been disclosed by authoritative writers.* In 1905 Russia ha^^ng 

^ The first financial war measure appears to have been taken on 18th 
June 1914, when the President of the Reichsbank, " with special emphasis," 
recommended the directors of the leading Berlin banks to increase the 
cover of their foreign securities by 10 per cent. From 2nd July en- 
deavours were made to increase the gold reserve by " drawing in and 
" holding foreign capital." " Financial readiness " was not officially 
ordered until 31st July when " Imminent Danger of War " was declared. 
(G.O.A., K.U.K., i. pp. 472-7.) 

2 See G.O.A., i. pp. 49-69, and Bredt, Moltke, Kuhl, Tappen, Baum- 
garten-Crusius, Foerster's " Graf Schlieffen und der Weltkrieg," Rochs' 
" Schlieffen." 

* Notably by Dr. J. V. Bredt, Member of the Feichstag and of its 
Committee which enquired into the loss of the war, in his " Die belgische 
" Neutralitat und der schlieffensche Feldzugsplan." There is a mass of 
literature on the subject. 


only just emerged from the Manchurian war, Schlieffcn in his plan 
" dealt exclusively \\ath a war against France and England " (G.O.A.). 
The object was the annihilation of the French Armies and any British 
troops that might be with them ; and the whole resources of Germany 
were to be devoted to this single purpose. If, however, it turned 
out to be necessary to fight on the Eastern Front as well as on the 
Western, ten divisions, Schlieffen wrote, drawn " proportionately " 
from the Groups of Armies allotted to the latter, should be detailed. 

He calculated that 26i corps, 14 Reserve corps, 8 new Ersatz 
corps and 11 cavalry divisions were required to ensure success.^ 
The actual mobilization strength at the time he wrote was 23| corps, 
20 Reserve divisions not organized in corps (except one),^ and 11 
cavalry divisions ; but he indicated how the balance could gradually 
be raised. By 1914 the numbers had increased to 26 corps, 13^ 
Reserve corps, 6i Ersatz divisions (not corps) and 11 cavalry divisions. 
In this interval, however, the French Army had also increased ; 
Russia, too, had growTi strong again ; and although only 9 divisions, 
not 10, were allotted by Moltke to the Eastern Front, " in the end, 
" the relative strength turned out to be more unfavourable than the 
" Memoir had assumed." (G.O.A.) In fact, in August 1914 Moltke 
had for the Western Front 20| divisions less than Schlieffen had 
counted upon. 

Schlieffen divided his forces into two unequal wings, in the 
proportion of 7 to 1, on either side of the great fortified area of 
Metz — Thionville. The larger mass, after deploying on the general 
line Crefeld — Metz, was to make the gigantic left wheel already 
mentioned, not only across Belgium, but across " South Holland " 
and the so-called " Limburg Appendix," the narrow 40-mile-long 
strip of Dutch territory which projects southwards and covers part 
of the Belgian frontier against Germany.^ 

To condense what is known of the plan : by the 22nd day of Sketch 1. 
mobilization (23rd August in 1914), the five Armies of the right 
wing were expected to reach the line Thionville — Sedan — Mons — • 
Ghent ; by the 31st day (1st September), the line Thionville — • 
Rethel — La Fere — Amiens.* 

Then — provision having been made for the investment of Antwerp, 
" where the English may have landed " — whilst the other Armies of 
this wing held their ground, or advanced methodically by siege 
methods (the Second Army, in particular, digging in on the line of 
the Oise or of the Oise — Aisne, thus covering Paris on the north), 
the First Army, always trying to outflank the French by the west, 

^ Landwehr and Landslurm formations are omitted. 

' The Guard Reserve Corps consisted of 1 Active and 1 Reserve division, 

' Moltke's " Erinnerungen," p. 17. Captain van Voorst, of the 
Netherlands General Staff, in " Over Roermund," has stated that in 1914 
maps were issued to formations of the German First Army showing the 
routes to be followed through Dutch territory south of Grave — Hertogen- 
bosch — Tilburg — Turnhout. It is worth looking at Map 2 to see where 
the routes thus delimited would bring a German Army : it is to Antwerp, 
behind the Belgian Army deployed on the frontier, and to the Channel 
coast ports. 

In view of possible violation of their frontier, the Netherlands Govern- 
ment ordered the railway bridges in the Appendix to be prepared for 
demolition on 2Gth July 1914. 

* This was actually accomplished in 1914, the time lost by the Belgian 
resistance having been regained by the rapid retirement of the French. 


was to sweep over the lower Seine, past the west of Paris and round 
by the south. It was to be followed by six Ersatz corps, which would 
complete the investment of the capital. When they were in position, 
the First Army, reinforced by every division which could be spared 
from other Armies, possibly by part of the left wing brought round 
by train, was " to advance eastwards and drive the French by attack 
" on their left flank against their Moselle fortresses, against the Jura 
" and against Switzerland. The essential for the execution of the 
" operation as a whole is the formation of a strong right wing, by 
" whose assistance the battles will be won, and the enemy forced 
" to give ground again and again by a relentless pursuit." (G.O.A., 
i. p. 58.) " Everything was risked on the strength and rapidity of 
" the first blow." (General von Seeckt in a lecture delivered in 1928.) 

If the French advanced to the attack, even broke into Alsace- 
Lorraine, so much the better for the success of the German plan ; 
it would in fact be " a kind service " (Liebesdienst) if they did so, 
for they would walk, as they did, into the trap set for them. Indeed, 
unless they advanced there could not be a " Cannae " and it was 
with this battle of annihilation, on which he had written a book, 
in his mind that Schlieffen drafted his plan. 

There was to be no ultimatum to Belgium or to Holland. The 
right of the German Armies was at first to deploy on the Dutch- 
Belgian frontier without any notification. This would give a hint 
of the German intentions, and it was assumed that the French would 
take covmter-measures. In Schlieffen's opinion these could only be 
the occupation of the natural defensive position along the Meuse 
south of Namur. Thus the French would be the first to violate 
Belgian neutrality. (Bredt, p. 52.) 

In any case, Schlieffen appears to have thought that there would 
be no difficulty in obtaining permission from the King of the Belgians, 
Leopold II., to traverse his territory ; he would make a protest and 
accept monetary compensation.^ Similarly, " he did not consider 
" it out of the question, in view of the political situation [in 1905, 
" that is soon after the S. African War] that Germany on outbreak 
" of war against England would have no difficulty in obtaining 
" permission by an amicable arrangement with the Netherlands 
" Government, for the German Army to cross the Dutch province 
" of Limbourg (Maestricht, Roermund). Then the [Belgian] fortress 
" of Liege could be avoided by passing north of it, and quickly 
" brought to surrender by threatening it from the rear." (Bredt, 
p. 53.) 

To the German left wing Schlieffen assigned no more than 3J 
corps, IJ Reserve corps and 3 cavalry divisions, in addition to the 
war garrisons (2 Reserve divisions) of Metz and Strasburg, 3J Land- 
wehr mixed brigades on the Upper Rhine, and one brigade in Lower 
Alsace. This small force was not, however, to stand on the defensive : 
3 corps, a Reserve corps and the 3 cavalry divisions " were from the 
" outset to be employed in an attack on Nancy " (G.O.A., i. p. 59) ; 
their business was to attract as many French troops as possible. If 
the French did not counter-attack, two corps were to be shipped 
off by train to the right wing in Belgium (G.O.A., i. p. 60). Other 
versions, however, speak of an attack by the left wing taking place 

^ The Germans issued a proclamation on entering Belgium promising 
to pay for ever>i;hing in " minted gold." The proclamation is in " Liittich- 
Namur," pp. 14-15. 


at some later stage of the proceedings in order to bring about a 
" colossal Cannae." Schlieffen's biographer, Dr. Rochs, states the 
Field-Marshal " kept the plan [of thus using the left wing] in his 
" eye in order to execute it in the course of the campaign, and thus 
" achieve the complete rounding up of the Franco-British forces." 
We shall see that Moltke attempted to do so. 

It was easier to sketch out such an academic plan of campaign, 
with complete contempt of the enemy and neutrals, than to carry 
it out in the field, and the unfortunate Moltke was forced to make 
modifications in it.^ In the period that the changes were made, 
1908-9, Colonel Ludendorff was head of the Operations Section of 
the Great General Staff. (Bredt, p. 50, f.n. 44.) 

First, ]\Ioltke gave up the idea of marching through Holland, " in 
" order not to force the Netherlands also into the ranks of our 
" enemies." (Moltke, p. 17.) " It was not expected that Belgium 
would offer armed opposition to a march across her territory. But 
the dropping of the plan of entering Holland forced the extreme 
German right, the First and Second Armies to pass between Aachen 
(Aix la Chapelle) and the southern end of the Limburg Appendix. 
To ensure the rapid passage of this defile it was necessary to gain 
possession of Liege as quickly as possible. It was most important 
not to give the Belgians time to put the fortress in a state of defence 
and destroy the important railway bridges near it. Moltke feared 
that this could not be done by an " accelerated artillery attack " 
and therefore decided to take Liege by a coup de main carried out 
by frontier troops on peace establishment, without mobilization, 
immediately on outbreak of war. " For the execution of this coup 
" de main two days and the following night were allowed in the 
" appreciation." (Bredt, p. 54.) If this failed, it was left to the 
commander of the Second Army to decide whether to try again 
with stronger forces, or proceed to " accelerated siege methods." 
How long these might take is not stated in the scheme.^ 

The other and more important change was as regards the strength 
of the left wing. In view of the increased importance of the industrial 
areas, particularly those of the Saar and Rhine valleys, Moltke could 
not leave them unnecessarily exposed to enemy attack. It is also 
stated (Bredt, p. 50) that an additional reason for his not abandoning 
Alsace was the expectation that the Italians might take part on 
the German side ; in fact, their General Staff had made arrangements 
to do so. As their troops would be brought to Upper Alsace, it was 
necessary to hold that province with at least two corps (the Seventh 
Army had three). If the Italians did not arrive, then the transport 
of the corps to the right wing could be taken up. Trains to transport 
seven corps were in fact collected as a railway reserve, beginning 

1 Schlieffen drew up his plan before aeroplanes were in practical use or 
air reconnaissance behind the adversaries' lines was thought of. There is 
no hint that INIoltke and his assistants ever took into consideration the 
fact that their foe might obtain information from the air which would 
enable him to recognize and to stultify their plan. 

- The German Government, too, wanted to keep Holland neutral so 
as to be able to obtain world supplies through her ports. 

' As the 5th August was the " first day " of the coup de main and the 
last forts fell on the IGth, and the German Armies were mobilized, deployed 
and ready to move in 7 days, the loss of time occasioned by the resistance 
of Liege would appear to be at least four days. (See above, page 35.) 


on the tenth day of mobihzation. They were assembled in three 
sections ; the first behind the left wing, the second on the middle 
and lower Rhine, and the third in the Munster — Cassel area. (G.O.A., 
Railway Vol. i. p. 41.) 

In any case, in 1909 Moltke raised the strength of the left wing 
from 5 to 8 corps. It is claimed by the German Official Account 
that by so doing he altered the proportion of 7 to 1 to about 3 to 1 
(actually 60 1 divisions to 16, excluding Landwehr), and thereby 
missed the point of the Schlieffen plan, which was a strong right 
wing. This does not appear to be quite fair on Moltke ; for he had 
to consider altered circumstances and his allotment of the extra 
strength to the left wing was intended to be a temporary measure 
at the outbreak of war. 

After the defeat and retreat of the French First and Second 
Armies on the 20th August, six or even more divisions, to restore 
the Schlieffen balance, could, from the operations viewpoint, have 
been transferred from the left to the right wing ; but this was not 
practically feasible beyond Aix la Chapelle, owing to the destruction 
of the Meuse railway bridges and other demolitions carried out by the 
Belgians. Not until the 24th August could trains run past Liege, 
and then only by a deviation with 1 in 30 gradients, which required 
four locomotives for a train, two in front and two behind. The 
whole of the railway communications of the First, Second and Third 
Armies were compelled to pass over this one route until the 2nd 
September, when the Huy — Namur route became available for the 
Third Army. (G.O.A., Railway Vol. i. pp. 82-3.) " The Thionville— 
" Libramont — Namur section, so important for the transfer from 
" the left to the right wing, was opened to traffic on the 8th September 
"• up to the destroyed Meuse bridge at Namur. The restoration of 
" the bridge was not accomplished until the last days of September." 
(Kretschmann, "Eisenbahnen," p. 37.) Not until the 5th September 
was it possible to begin the transport of troops from the left wing via 
Aix la Chapelle, Liege, Brussels.^ 

In consequence of the transport difficulties of sending the troops 
from left to right as planned (Tappen, pp. 13-15), and of the easy 
defeat of the French Third and Fourth Armies on the 21st August 
and their retreat — followed as it was by that of the Fifth Army and 
the B.E.F., as will be seen — Moltke appears to have jumped to the 
conclusion that the moment had arrived to carry out the second 
part of the Schlieffen plan. When in the early afternoon of the 
22nd, Major-General Krafft von Dellmensingen, Crown Prince 
Rupprecht's Chief of the Sta;fif, enquired on the telephone of Lieut. - 
Colonel Tappen, the head of the Operations Section O.H.L., whether 
troops would now be transferred to the right wing, the latter gave 
the astonishing order from Moltke, " Pursuit direction Epinal," 
and the explanation, " There are still strong forces in the Vosges, 
" they must be cut off." ^ It was hoped that the French, like the 
Belgian, frontier fortifications would be easily destroyed and overrun, 
and that the " operation in co-operation with the movements of the 

^ The XV. Corps, sent first, was delayed at Antwerp as the result of a 
Belgian sortie, and was not in the line of battle until the 14th September 
on the Aisne. 

2 Moltke, p. 434, says of this : " the pursuit came to a stop on the 
" Meuse, and the break-through (Durchstoss) planned between Epinal and 
" Nancy did not succeed." 


" right wing would be the first stage of the surrounding of tlie 
" enemy's Armies as a whole, which, if successfully carried out 
" must, according to the views then held, bring about the end of the 
" war in a very short time." (Tappen, p. 15.) Thus the " Cannae," 
the double envelopment dreamed of by Schlieffen was to be accom- 
plished. It may fairly be said that Moltke failed, not by " watering 
down " the Schlieffen plan, as sometimes averred, but by trying 
to carry it out in its entirety, in the spirit of its originator, without 
the forces necessary for so vast an operation. 

There was no doubt of the certain success of the Schlieffen Plan 
in the minds of the Prussian General Staff. In the negotiations 
with the Austro-Hungarian General Staff before the war, in 1908-9, 
the Germans laid dowTi as the basis of the common plan that only 
twelve or thirteen German divisions would be employed in East 
Prussia in the first instance (only ten were actually thus employed 
in August 1914) : " Austria-Hungary, for the rest, must carry on 
" the conflict alone with Russia until a decision against France has 
" been obtained, which will be sought with all speed. This accom- 
" plished, there will be a mass transport to the East of important 
" German forces, which will be engaged there, in co-operation with 
" those of Austria-Hungary, to obtain a decision against Russia." 

When Conrad enquired of Moltke when this decision against 
France and this transfer of troops might be expected to take place, 
he was informed " between the 36th and 40th dav of mobilization " 
("Aus Meiner Dienstzeit 1906-1918," i. pp. 369-70, by Feld- 
Marschall Conrad von Hotzendorf). Later on this was slightly 
modified, and Conrad was informed, " if France takes the offensive, 
•' the decision is expected on the 21st day of mobilization ; if she 
" fights behind her frontier defences, on the 28th day. After this 
" decision the forces to operate against Russia should arrive there 
" about the 41st day of mobilization " {idem, p. 374). 


22nd august 1914 

First Contact with the Enemy 

(Sketches 4 & 5 ; Maps 2, 3, 5 & 6) 

Maps 2 At dawn on the 22nd August C Squadron of the 4th 
^ 2' Dragoon Guards (2nd Cavalry Brigade) pushed out two 
officer's patrols from Obourg, on the canal, north towards 
Soignies ; one of these found a German piquet on the road, 
fired on it, and drove it off. This was apparently the 
first shot of the war fired by the British on the continent. 
Later a troop of the same squadron advanced to meet a 
body of German cavalry which was moving south along 
the road from Soignies towards Mons, turned it back near 
Casteau, and pursued it until checked by fire.^ The 4th 
killed three or four of the enemy and captured three more, 
who proved to belong to the 4th Cuirassiers of the 9th 
Cavalry Division. Further to the east, the 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade found all clear for two miles north of the canal 
within the triangle Gottignies — Roeulx — Houdeng ; but 
here again the peasants reported the enemy to be in strength 
to the north, at Soignies and north of La Louviere (eleven 
miles east of Mons). Still further east patrols of the 
5th Cavalry Brigade early found contact with the enemy 
in the direction of La Louviere and reported German 
troops of all arms to be advancing from the north, and 
the French to be retiring across the Sambre. General 
Sordet's 3rd Cavalry Division passed through the British 
5th Cavalry Brigade soon after, on its march westward ; 
but it was not until nearly 10 a.m. that a German detach- 
ment of all arms ^ came in contact with two squadrons of 
the Scots Greys (5th Cavalry Brigade), which were holding 

* German accounts also record this as the first contact. " Mons," p. 17. 
2 Of the 13th Division. See page 70. 



the bridges over the Samme at Binche and Peronnes, 22 Aug. 
facing east. The enemy made httle effort to force the ^^i** 
passage, though he shelled the Greys heavily but ineffec- 
tively, and kept up a fairly accurate rifle fire. The 3rd 
Cavalry Brigade, in support of the 5th, remained about 
Bray, two miles in rear, whence D and E Batteries R.H.A. 
fired a few shells. At 2 p.m. the Greys slowly drew off, 
having apparently, by sheer superiority of marksmanship, 
inflicted some thirty or forty casualties at the cost of one 
officer wounded. A troop of the 16th Lancers, which had 
been sent to their support, gave chase to a hostile patrol 
on the way, and came suddenly upon a party of Jdger on 
the hill immediately to the west of Peronnes. The troop 
rode straight over the Jdger, charged through them again 
on the return journey, at a cost of only one man wounded 
and three horses killed, and then left them to E Battery 
R.H.A., which had unlimbered to cover its return. Alto- 
gether, the cavalry was heartened by its work on this 
day, being satisfied that it was superior to the German 
horsemen, both mounted and dismounted, alike with rifle 
and with sword. 

The cumulative effect of the encounters during the 
day on the British cavalry commanders was the con- 
viction that German infantry in great force was in close 
support of the German cavalry. They had made reports 
in that sense on the previous day, and they were now more 
than ever confirmed in their opinion. Aerial reconnais- 
sance during the forenoon did not tend to shake this view. 
One aviator landing at Beaumont (about 12 miles east of 
Maubeuge) to take in petrol, learned from General de 
Mas-Latrie, the commander of the French XVIII. Corps, 
that General Sordet, on his march westwards to the left 
flank of the Allied Armies, had on the 21st encountered 
German infantry north of the Sambre canal, and had been 
compelled to fall back. This accounted for his movement 
southward to Binche. Later, another British aeroplane 
(which returned to the aerodrome at 1.10 p.m.) reported 
the northern part of Charleroi and many other towns 
and villages near it to be in flames, and on its return 
westward was fired at by an infantry brigade between Ath 
and Enghien. A third aeroplane had a similar experience, 
the observer being wounded. The sum total of these 
observations was to the effect that brigades of German 
infantry, probably amounting to a corps in all, filled the 
roads south of Grammont, that a cavalry division was at 



Soignies, and that the general front of this corps and 
cavalry division extended, facing south-west, from Lessines 
to Soignies,^ no part of them being west of the Dendre 
canal, excepting a party of mounted troops which had 
been seen at Peruwelz, immediately to the north of Conde. 
Their further advance, if the direction were maintained, 
would bring their left (east) flank to Mons. 
Sketch 5. Meantime, the British I. and II. Corps were advancing. 
Maps 3 In view of the situation, both corps started an hour and a 
half before the time which had been originally ordered. 
The 1st Division, moving at 4 a.m., reached its selected 
halting places — north and south-west of Maubeuge — at 
Bettignies, St. Remi Mai Bati, Limont Fontaine, between 
3 and 5 p.m. But shortly before 3.30 p.m. Sir Douglas Haig 
received orders for the I. Corps to continue its advance. 
The result of the morning's reconnaissances had shown 
G.H.Q. that if the Cavalry Division were withdrawn, as 
already ordered, to the left of the line, the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade would be too weak to cover the large gap between 
the right of the II. Corps and the left of the French XVIII. 
Corps on the Sambre, and that consequently the I. Corps 
must be hurried up to its support. Accordingly, between 
5 and 7 p.m. the 1st Division resumed its march, but did 
not reach its billets until far into the night, the 2nd and 
3rd Brigades entering Villers Sire Nicole and Croix lez 
Rouveroy, some eight to ten miles south-west of Binche, 
between 9 and 10 p.m., whilst the 1st (Guards) Brigade on 
the right did not arrive at Grand Reng until 2 to 3 a.m. on 
the 23rd. This was a long march, which tried the troops 

About noon the 2nd Division, which had started at 
5 A.M., halted in depth at La Longueville, Hargnies, and 
Pont sur Sambre, which lie on a north and south road 
passing west of Maubeuge. Its head was thus some six 
miles south-west of the rear of the 1st Division. The 2nd 
Division also received orders to resume its march ; but 
they were subsequently cancelled, since the German ad- 
vance had apparently ended for the day, and there was no 
immediate necessity to make such a call on the troops. 

The whole movement of the I. Corps was covered on 
the west by a flank guard of the divisional cavalry, which 
traversed the Forest of Mormal. 

In the II. Corps, the 3rd Division moved off at 7 a.m., 

1 The troops in question were, commencing on the west : IV. Corps, 
III. Corps and 9th Cavalry Division. 


and the 5th, in three columns, at 6 a.m. ; the former 22 Aug. 
reached its billets around Mons, in the area Nimy — Ghlin 1914. 
— Frameries — Spiennes, at about 1 p.m., and the latter, Sketches 
on its left, the line of the Mons canal from Jemappes west- ^j* ^' 
ward to Bois de Boussu, one or two hours later. The 
troops again suffered much from the cobbled roads, and 
the march, though not long, was extremely trying. The 
first outpost line taken up by the 3rd Division, consequent 
upon the reports of the engagement of the 5th Cavalry 
Brigade, was from Givry (6 miles south-east of Mons) to 
the edge of Mons. Later in the afternoon, however, the 
line was thrown forward in a wide sweep eastwards, 
through Villers St. Ghislain, St. Symphorien, the bridge 
at Obourg, and the bridge at Lock 5, to Nimy. The 8th 
Brigade took the right of this line, the 9th the left, and the 
7th was in reserve some five miles in rear at Frameries 
and Ciply — the village around which Marlborough's army 
had bivouacked on the night before the battle of Mal- 
plaquet. On the left of the 3rd Division, the 13th Brigade 
of the 5th Division occupied the line of the canal from 
Mariette to Les Herbieres, and the 14th Brigade from Les 
Herbieres to Pommeroeul. The total front round Mons 
held by the II. Corps was over twenty miles. 

Thus the two corps were approximately in the positions 
assigned to them in G.H.Q. orders of the 20th August. The 
I. Corps was only a short distance from its intended 
position ; but the cavalry was now about to move due 
west, and a wheel of the II. Corps to the north-east up to 
Lens had still to take place. For the moment the line of 
the Mons canal, now held by the outposts of the II. Corps, 
was the left of the British front ; with the I. Corps' front 
it formed a salient angle, not a straight line. 

A broad belt of woodland extended along the whole 
length of the front north of the canal, capable of screening 
the approach of the enemy to within two miles, or even 
less, of the British piquet line. Around Mons itself the 
canal forms a pronounced salient (the " Mons Salient " as 
it will be called), which was ill-adapted to prolonged and 
serious defence. On appreciating the situation, 3rd Divi- 
sion headquarters, which had been warned of the possi- 
bility of an attack by German advanced guards, decided 
that in this quarter the outposts should not be reinforced 
in case of attack, and ordered the preparation of a second 
line position in rear, which will presently be described. 
Meanwhile, as the II. Corps came up, it became possible 



gradually to collect the Cavalry Division. Originally it 
had been intended that the division should move westward 
at noon ; but this, in view of the German menace about 
Binche, had been considered inadvisable. At 4 p.m., how- 
ever, General Allenby gave the order to withdraw west- 
ward. The main body of the 5th Cavalry Brigade remained 
near Estinne au Mont (south-west of Binche), leaving the 
Scots Greys in position at Estinne au Val, a couple of 
miles to the north-west. At 6.30 p.m. this brigade, having 
first put the bridges over the Samme into a state of defence, 
went into billets between Binche and Merbes Ste. Marie. 
As the Cavalry Division drew off, it was followed by a 
German airship. After a most painful march westward 
behind the II. Corps, along some fourteen miles of cobbled 
street through the dreary squalor of an interminable 
mining village, it reached its billets at Elouges, Quievrain 
and Baisieux, on the left of the Army, between midnight 
and 3 a.m. of the 23rd. 
Maps 3 In the course of the afternoon the Flying Corps made 
^ ^' further reconnaissances towards Charleroi, and ascertained 
that at least two German army corps — one of them the 
Guard Corps — and the Guard Cavalry Division, were 
attacking the French Fifth Army on the line of the Sambre.^ 
In the evening, the observers returned with very grave 
news, which was confirmed in detail, later, by Lieut. 
E. L. Spears, the British liaison officer with General Lan- 
rezac, and by an officer of the Fifth Army Headquarters 
sent by that general. The French centre had been driven 
back, and the X. Corps had retired to the line St. Gerard 
(13 miles E.S.E. of Charleroi) — Biesme — Gerpinnes, from 
five to ten miles south of the river ; the III. Corps had 
likewise fallen back nearly the same distance, to a line 
from Gerpinnes westward to Jamioulx ; the XVIII. Corps 
on the left, however, remained in its original position, still 
echeloned to the rear, between Marbaix and Thuin.^ 
General Sordet had moved southward from Binche, and 
was halting his cavalry corps for the night at Bersillies 
I'Abbaye (9 miles south of Binche), striking well to the 
rear of the British Army before moving west. General 
Valabregue's two Reserve divisions were near Avesnes, 

1 The attack was made by the Guard, X., X. Reserve and VII. Corps 
(east to west). The advance on the previous day up to the Sambre had 
been led by the Guard Cavalry Division and the Guard and A'. Corps. 

2 A good account of these events will be found in " Le lO^ Corps a la 
bataille de Charleroi," by Colonel Lucas. 


twenty-five miles south of Mons, preparing to march north- 22 Aug. 
east towards Beaumont — Cousolre, in rear of the gap i^i'*- 
between the Alhed Armies.^ The British on the Mons 
canal, therefore, were some nine miles northward of the 
main French line ; moreover, the 1st Division, when it came 
up to its destination about Grand Reng, would be fully nine 
miles from the left flank of the French XVIII. Corps. To 
fill the gap there were no troops available, except the 5th 
Cavalry Brigade and Valabregue's two Reserve divisions ; 
unless we include Sordet's cavalry, which was still in 
the neighbourhood, though moving fast away from it. 
Further, nine miles of the British line from the Mons 
Salient to Rouveroy (9 miles south-east of Mons), was held 
by no more than one infantry brigade, the 8th. 

The enemy's main bodies were now reported at various 
points in dangerous proximity. Twenty thousand men of 
all arms, presumed to be part of the German VII. Corps, 
were known to be moving southward from Luttre, about 
eight miles north of Charleroi. Thirty thousand more 
(supposed to be the IV. or the ///. Corps, but actually 
the VII. Reserve) were reported about Nivelles, and the 
IX. Corps was bivouacking for the night south-east of 
Soignies.- Yet another large body of all arms, reckoned 
to be another corps, the //., was moving west through 
Ladeuse, about five miles south of Ath. Further, the 
German 9th Cavalry Division had been identified, with its 
head at Peruwelz, and other cavalry, probably divisional, 
was known to be north of Mons.^ The inhabitants of Les 
Herbieres informed the Scottish Borderers that twelve 
Uhlans had ridden into their village on the 21st, and that 
some two hundred Germans were close at hand. Finally 
an air report was brought into Maubeuge, and at once 
taken personally to G.H.Q. by Br.-General Sir David 
Henderson, that a long column, estimated at a corps, was 
moving westward on the Brussels — Ninove road, and at 
the latter town had turned south-west towards Gram- 
mont. This was later identified as the German //. Corps 

^ For the movements of General Valabregue's Group see Note II. at end 
of Chapter V. 

^ The III. and IV. Corps were to the west of the VII. Reserve and 
IX., near Soignies and south-west of Enghien, respectively. 

^ On the night of 22nd/2;3rd Marwitz's three cavalry divisions were 
concentrated around Ath, preparatory to moving north-westwards towards 
Courtrai and the coast. The extreme left of the 9th Cavalry Division, not 
its head, had approached Peruwelz during the 22nd. Marwitz was looking 
for a British advance from the coast, that is the west, not from the south. 
Poseck, p. 31. 


of the First Army. There were also signs of a strong 
force (///. Corps) moving down the great chaussee on 
Soignies ; it was endeavouring to hide itself from observa- 
tion by keeping under the trees which bordered the road. 

As the situation disclosed itself, the British Commander- 
in-Chief, whilst still hoping that offensive action might be 
possible, began to realize, in view of the isolated posi- 
tion of his force, the necessity of being prepared for any 
kind of move, either in advance or retreat. The air report 
that a corps was moving on the road Brussels — Ninove — 
Grammont seemed to give warning of a very ambitious 
enveloping movement to the south-west. In any case 
Kluck's advance made it impossible to expect that the 
British would be able to reach Soignies without opposition. 
Taking all these facts into consideration. Sir John French, 
after consultation with Major-General Sir A. Murray, his 
Chief of the General Staff, announced about 10 p.m. to 
the senior General Staff officers of the two corps and 
the Cavalry Division (Br. -Generals J. Gough, G. T. 
Forestier-Walker and Colonel J. Vaughan), who had been 
summoned to Le Cateau to receive orders for the next 
day's operations, that, owing to the retreat of the French 
Fifth Army, the British offensive would not take place. 
To a request of General Lanrezac, brought by a staff officer 
about 11 P.M., that the English should attack the flank of 
the German columns which were pressing him back from 
the Sambre, Sir John French felt that it was impossible to 
accede, for it would mean exposing his own left flank to 
an enemy at least twice his strength ; but he agreed to 
remain in his position on the canal for twenty-four hours. 
At the suggestion of the II. Corps, he ordered the I. Corps 
to take over by 6 a.m. on the 23rd the portion of the outpost 
line of the II. Corps which lay east of Mons. Accordingly 
the 2nd Division which, as we have seen, had remained 
in its original billets, moved forward at 3 a.m. on the 
23rd, but it was too late to relieve the II. Corps before 
fighting commenced. 


German Uncertainty as to the Position of the B.E.F. 
ON 23rd August 1914 

From the many sources of information now available, it would 
appear that the fog of war on the German side, in spite of superiority 
in aircraft, was very much more intense than on the British. 


In the first place, Kluck laboured under the misapprehension ^ Aug. 1914. 
that the B.E.F. had landed at Ostend, Dunkirk and Calais. The 
Great General Staff had expected that it would do so ; ^ but the 
measures taken by the French to prevent espionage were so good 
that no information as to the real landing-places reached the Ger- 
mans. Thus their accounts say : * "As regards the arrival of this 
' Force [the B.E.F.], the information was unreliable, and as regards 
' its line of advance, there was none whatever. Even a message 
' from the Supreme Command dated 20th August, which arrived at 
' First Army Headquarters on the evening of the 21st, ran : ' Dis- 
' ' embarkation of the English at Boulogne and their employment 
' ' from direction of Lille must be reckoned with. The opinion here, 
' ' however, is that large disembarkations have not yet taken 
' ' place. . . .' It was only on the 22nd August that an English 
' cavalry squadron was heard of at Casteau, 6 miles north-east of 
' Mons,* and an aeroplane of the English 5th Flying Squadron which 
' had gone up from Maubeuge was shot down. The presence of the 
' English on our front was thus established, although nothing as 
' regards their strength." ^ 

What is more convincing perhaps than even this statement is 
the opening paragraph of Kluck's operation orders for the 23rd 
August,^ issued at Hal at 8.30 p.m. on the 22nd ; all that he could 
tell his corps commanders was : "A squadron of British cavalry 
" was encountered to-day at Casteau, north-east of Mons, and a 
" British aeroplane, coming from Maubeuge, was shot down near 
*' Enghien." Kluck's uncertainty, however, was still great, and he 
was so obsessed with the idea that the British would appear on his 
flank that on 23rd August, the actual day of the battle of Mons, 
hearing from Marwitz's cavalry corps, which he had sent towards 
the coast, that troops were detraining at Tournai, he halted his 
Army for two hours — 8.30 to 10.30 a.m. — and prepared to wheel 
westwards. In Kluck's own words : "A report reached Army 
" Headquarters that a detrainment of troops had been in progress 
" at Tournai since the previous day. It seemed therefore not un- 
" likely that strong British forces were being sent forward through 
" Lille. The heads of the advanced guards of the corps were therefore 
" halted on the road Leuze — Mons — Binche to enable preparations 

1 Kluck, p. 33. 

2 Kuhl, " Generalstab," p. 91. 

3 General von Zwehl writing in the " Militar Wochenblatt," Nos. 35, 
36, 37 and 38 of September 1919, in an article entitled " The Operations of 
Field JIarshal French against the First Army and the VII. Reserve Corps." 
Kluck, p. 34, and Biilow, p. 21, also give the Supreme Command message. 

* This belonged to the 4th Dragoon Guards, as mentioned at the 
beginning of Chapter II. 

* The German navy had not been helpful in the matter. On 1st August 
the Chief of the Admiral Staff wrote to the Commander-in-Chief of the 
Fleet. " All information indicates that England intends to send the 

' Expeditionary Force, which has been assembled in Essex (sic), to the 

' Dutch and Belgian ports." On the 8th, " the naval command had 

definite ' information that the transport of the B.E.F. to Calais and 

' eastwards (Dunkirk, Ostend and Zeebrugge) was ' in full swing.' 

' Nothing was heard in Germany of the mass of the Expeditionary Force 

' crossing the Channel in the middle of August." Schafer's " Generalstab 

und Admiralstab," pp. 33-4. 

8 Kluck, p. 34. 


"to be made for the Army to wheel westwards. . . . Eventually, 
" however, it was reported that only a French infantry brigade was 
" at Tournai, and that it was retiring on Lille. The Army, therefore, 
" continued to advance." 

The German General Staff monograph " Mons " adds that by the 
detrainment at Tournai " the still unsolved question as to where the 
" British principal forces would be met was made yet more difficult 
" to answer. In relation to the landing-places of the British, their 
" detrainment near Lille was not unlikely." It continues that, in 
the course of the forenoon, information as to the presence of the 
B.E.F. on the canal became more and more definite. " A captured 
" private letter announced the presence of a strong British Army 
" south of JNIons. The nearest division of the Second Army, the 13th 
" Division, reported that a British cavalry brigade had been driven 
" from Peronnes in a south-westerly direction.^ ... In the early 
" morning, aeroplane reconnaissance had given no results in conse- 
" quence of the prevailing fog." 

On the arrival of the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Grenadier Regiment 
(III. Corps), at Baudour, 2 miles north of the Mons canal, about 
noon on the 23rd August, the cavalry reported ^ that there was no 
enemy within fifty miles, and shortly afterwards two hussars, covered 
with blood, galloped past shouting that the enemy had occupied the 
line of the canal in front. A third limped past, dragging his blood- 
stained saddle, and reported " in front, in the village, there they 
" are ! " 

The German General Staff account states that " reconnoitring 
" parties were unable to reach the bridges [of the canal]. Whenever 
" they tried to penetrate between the numerous widely scattered 
" farms . . . they were received with fire from invisible riflemen." 
It was thus in complete ignorance of the strength of the British that 
Kluck advanced to the canal ; as he says, there " might have been 
" only cavalry " in front of him.* 

1 It was two squadrons of the Royal Scots Greys. See page 62. 

* Bloem, p. IIG. 

' Just as Billow on the 22nd August at Charleroi thought that he was 
only opposed by cavalry and weak infantry detachments when he had the 
French Fifth Army in front of him. Biilow, pp. 21, 22. 


the battle of mons 

23rd August 

(Sketches 3, 4 »& 5 ; Maps 5, 6 & 7) 

The ground on which the British Army had taken up its Map 6. 
position was a narrow belt of coalfield which extends 
roughly for rather more than twenty miles westwards from 
Maurage (6 miles east of Mons) along the Mons canal, and 
has an average breadth, from the canal southward, of two 
miles. South of this belt the country gradually rises to a 
great tract of rolling chalk downs, cut into by many streams 
and with numerous outlying spurs. Every inch of this 
territory has in bygone days seen the passage of British 
armies ; name after name is found upon British colours, 
or is familiar in British military history. 

On the ground occupied by the I. Corps — that is to say, 
roughly from Givry northward to Spiennes, thence west- 
ward almost to Paturages and thence southward again 
to Quevy le Petit — the chalk comes to the surface ; and 
there is even a little outcrop of it within the salient or 
loop of the canal around Mons. This small area is cut up 
by wire fences, market gardens, and the usual artificial 
features which form the outskirts of a provincial town ; 
and it is noteworthy that across this tangle of enclosures 
no fewer than seven different roads diverge from Mons 
north-east and north-west to as many bridges. At the 
base of the salient the ground rises gradually from north 
to south, for fifteen hundred to two thousand yards, till 
it culminates in three well-marked features. The first of 
these is Mount Erebus, a round hill immediately to the 
south of Mons ; the second is a great whale-backed hump, 
about a thousand yards long from north to south, very 
steep upon every side except the eastern, and crowned by 


72 MONS 

two summits, Mont Panisel on the north and Bois la Haut 
on the south, the whole called by the latter name. The 
third is the height known as Hill 93, which lies south- 
east of Bois la Haut and is divided from it by a shallow 
valley. This last hill was of considerable tactical import- 
ance, since from it and from Bois la Haut observation and 
cross-fire could be brought to bear upon the ground east- 
ward about St. Symphorien. But Bois la Haut was in 
parts thickly wooded, and consequently from its northern 
end, where there were hospital buildings, there was little 
field of fire. 

West of Mons the line of the canal is straight, and the 
actual borders are clear ; the ground on both sides of it 
is cut up by a network of artificial water-courses, chequered 
by osier-beds, for a breadth of a mile or more. But the 
opening up of the coal-measures has turned much of the 
country immediately south of this watery land into the 
hideous confusion of a mining district. The space occupied 
by the II. Corps in particular, within the quadrangle 
Mons — Frameries — Dour — Boussu, was practically one huge 
unsightly village, traversed by a vast number of devious 
cobbled roads which lead from no particular starting-point 
to no particular destination, and broken by pit-heads and 
great slag-heaps, often over a hundred feet high. It is, 
in fact, a close and blind country, such as no army had yet 
been called upon to fight in against a civilised enemy in a 
great campaign. 

At 5.30 A.M. the Commander-in-Chief met the com- 
manders of his two corps and of the cavalry division in the 
chateau at Sars la Bruyere, when he issued orders for the 
outpost line to be strengthened, and for the bridges over 
the Mons canal to be prepared for demolition.^ The con- 
ference over, the Field-Marshal, at 9.15 a.m. proceeded to 
Valenciennes. The 19th Brigade had just detrained there 
and was marching to occupy the left flank of the outpost 
line on the canal. This would thus extend nearly to Conde, 
where it was understood from a French staff officer that 
Territorial troops would take it up.^ The local situation, 

^ The G.O.C. II. Corps, foreseeing the imminence of an attack, had 
already, at 2.30 a.m., sent an order to his two divisions to prepare the 
bridges for demoHtion. At 8.53 a.m. he issued a further order directing 
them to be destroyed on divisional order in the event of a retirement being 
necessary. All the barges in the canal were sunk by small gun-cotton 
charges. A full description of the work done will be found in " The Royal 
" Engineers Journal " for March 1932, " Demolitions carried out at Mons 
" and during the Retreat 1914," by Major-General Sir R. U. H. Buckland. 

2 The 84th Territorial Division subsequently arrived. 


therefore, seemed satisfactory. For the rest, there was 23 Aug. 
intelHgence of fighting between German cavalry and French ^^i*- 
Territorial infantry about Tournai, though no information 
as to its results. 

In describing the general disposition of the troops it Sketches 
must be remembered that, as the Army had halted whilst ^* ^' 
in the course of wheeling or forming to face towards ^^ 
Nivelles, the front of the I. Corps was already turned north- 
eastward, whereas the II., upon the wheeling flank, still 
mainly faced to the north. The general front, therefore, 
formed an obtuse angle, the I. Corps being on the right half 
of the south-eastern arm, and the II. Corps round the apex 
and along the western arm. The south-eastern arm from 
Peissant to Mons was about ten miles long, and the arm 
along the canal from Mons to Conde, seventeen miles. 

The I. Corps was extended, roughly speaking, from the 
Sambre to the Haine ; the 1st Division (Major-General 
S. H. Lomax) being on the right, with the 3rd Brigade 
(Br.-General H. J, S. Landon) in front between Peissant 
and Haulchin (about four miles) ; the 1st (Guards) Brigade 
(Br.-General F. I. Maxse) in rear of its right at Grand Reng 
and Vieux Reng ; and the 2nd Brigade (Br.-General E. S. 
Bulfin) in rear of its left at Villers Sire Nicole and Rouveroy. 
The 2nd Division (Major-General C. C. Monro) was on its 
way to take up the line on the left of the 1st Division from 
Haulchin to Harmignies (another four miles), and mean- 
while the vacant place was filled by the 5th Cavalry Brigade. 
In the II . Corps, the ground in front of the right of the outpost 
line of the 3rd Division (Major-General H. I. W. Hamilton) 
was commanded by the great bluff of Bois la Haut. This 
hill was reconnoitred for occupation by the batteries of the 
XL. Brigade R.F.A., which were billeted immediately behind 
it at Mesvin, and had been secured on the night of the 22nd- 
23rd by sending forward the 2 /Royal Irish Regiment, of the 
8th Brigade, to connect with the I. Corps at Harmignies, and 
hold the villages of Villers St. Ghislain and St. Symphorien. 
The 1 /Gordon Highlanders and 2/Royal Scots of the 
8th Brigade (Br.-General B. J. C. Doran) were in position 
near the Harmignies road from Hill 93 to the north-east 
corner of Bois la Haut. The front from Bois la Haut 
northwards to the apex of the Mons Salient, two miles, was 
held as an outpost line by the 4/Middlesex. Rough en- 
trenchments had been thrown up during the afternoon of 
the 22nd, but were still unfinished when darkness fell. On 
the left of the 4/Middlesex, the 9th Brigade (Br.-General 

74 MONS 

F. C. Shaw) held the line of the canal from the Nimy 
bridges on the western face of the Mons Salient, as far as 
the bridge of Mariette, six miles, with the 4/Royal Fusiliers, 
1/Royal Scots Fusiliers and 1/Fifth Fusiliers.^ The remain- 
ing battalion, the 1 /Lincolnshire, was a mile south-west of 
Mons at Cuesmes. The 7th Brigade (Br.-General F. W. N. 
McCracken) was in reserve about Ciply, two miles south of 
Mons. The rest of the artillery of the 3rd Division was 
held for the present mostly in reserve — XXIII. Brigade 
R.F.A. north of Ciply, and XLII. R.F.A., together with 
the 48th Heavy Battery, at Nouvelles (1| miles east of 
Ciply). The XXX. Howitzer Brigade was still on its way 
from Valenciennes. 

Passing westward to the 5th Division (Major-General 
Sir C. Fergusson), the 13th Brigade (Br.-General G. J. 
Cuthbert) was posted, with a three-mile front, on the left 
of the 9th, the 1 /Royal West Kent covering the bridges 
which span the canal immediately east of St. Ghislain, with 
four guns of the 120th Field Battery in close support on 
the tow-path. On the left of the West Kent, who had dug 
themselves excellent trenches by the railway bridge, the 
2/King's Own Scottish Borderers, with the machine guns 
of the 2/King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, occupied the 
canal up to, but not including, the railway bridge at Les 
Herbieres, with one company entrenched on the road north 
of that bridge. The two remaining battalions of the 13th 
Brigade were held in reserve in St. Ghislain, in rear of the 
centre of the brigade front. 

On the left of the 13th Brigade, the 14th (Br.-General 
S. P. Rolt) occupied the line of the canal from the railway 
bridge of Les Herbieres westward to Pommeroeul road 
bridge, a front of 2i miles. The 1/East Surrey were on the 
right, holding the railway bridge itself, with one company 
pushed across to the north bank. From the foot-bridge 
south of La Hamaide, the 1/Duke of Cornwall's Light 
Infantry prolonged the front to Pommeroeul bridge. Here 
again a platoon, together with the machine-gun section, 
was sent across the canal to form a bridgehead upon the 
north bank. The machine guns were posted to sweep the 
straight length of road towards Ville Pommeroeul ; but a 
clear view northward was obstructed by rolling stock on 
the railway, which crosses the road about a mile to north 
of the canal. As the Haine stream, which was unfordable 

^ Two companies of the 1/Fifth Fusihers were in the Hne, the 
remainder of the battahon was in brigade reserve with the Lincolnsliire. 


and had few bridges, passed about a mile behind this part 2:5 Aug. 
of the hne, the Duke of Cornwall's had orders to hold the ^^i"** 
canal as an advanced position only, and to retire when 
necessary to a second position, which the 15th Brigade 
(Br.-General Count Gleichen) was directed to prepare 
behind the Haine. The 2/Suffolk and 2 /Manchester, the 
remaining battalions of the 14th Brigade, were in reserve. 
The 15th Brigade was divided, part preparing a position 
on the Haine, with the rest in reserve further to the rear 
near Dour. From Pommeroeul westward the 4th Cavalry 
Brigade was responsible for the two remaining crossing- 
places east of Conde, at Lock 5 and St. Aybert, until the 
19th Brigade should come up, and these two points were 
accordingly occupied by the Carabiniers. All troops were 
warned to expect an attack early next morning. 

The selection of positions along the part of the line held 
by the 5th Division was a matter of the greatest difficulty, 
the ground being a wilderness of deep ditches, straggling 
buildings, casual roads and tracks, and high slag-heaps. 
These last seemed to offer points of vantage, which were 
generally found to be non-existent when their summits had 
been explored, as they were commanded by some other 
slag-heap ; while certain of them, which seemed to promise 
all that could be desired, were found to be so hot that men 
could not stand on them. The artillery was even more 
embarrassed than the infantry : the officers had great 
difficulty in finding suitable positions for batteries or even 
for single guns, and were equally at a loss to discover good 
observation posts. The general policy followed was to 
push batteries or sections of batteries up to the infantry 
line for close defence, and to keep the mass of the artillery, 
including the heavy battery, on the left, where the guns 
could cover all open ground in anticipation of a turning 
movement round that flank. Altogether, the ground was 
such as to baffle the most skilful and sanguine of British 
gunners. Fortunately, on the enemy side, the con- 
ditions were almost identical ; and, except on the east, 
where the ground was more open, the Germans could make 
little use of their overwhelming superiority of numbers ; for 
they were about to match eight divisions against four, and 
actually in the infantry fight six against two extended 
along a front of 13 miles. In fact, the line of the II. Corps 
was so thin that it was little better than an outpost line, a 
chain of small groups, lying on the canal bank, almost in- 
visible, as is shown in a photograph taken by a machine- 

76 MONS 

gun officer during the battle from his flanking gun. Not 
without good reason was provision made for a retrenchment 
across the rear of the Salient and for occupying a position 
in rear of the canal, roughly Frameries — Wasmes — Dour, 
should a strong attack develop. 

23 Aug. The morning of Sunday the 23rd broke in mist and rain, 

1914. which, about 10 a.m., cleared off and gave place to fair 
Sketches weather. Church bells rang, and the inhabitants of the 
3, 4 & 5 ; villages near the canal were seen in their best attire going 
^ y^^ to worship as if war was utterly distant from them. Trains 
were running towards Mons crowded with the usual 
holiday makers. The mounted troops of both armies how- 
ever were early astir. Those of the British 1st and 2nd 
Divisions, reconnoitring east of Mons towards the bridges 
of Binche, Bray, Havre and Obourg, soon encountered 
small parties of the enemy. Near Obourg they were 
pressed back, and at 6 a.m. the German cavalry exchanged 
shots with the 4/Middlesex. About the same time, other 
parties of German horse approached the Royal Fusiliers 
in the apex of the Salient, and two officers of the Ger- 
man 3rd Hussars, the corps cavalry of the ///. Corps, 
were made prisoners. Another patrol, towards Nimy, 
came in sight of the Scots Fusiliers, who killed one man, 
and identified his uniform as that of the cavalry regiment 
of the IX. Corps. Further west, two German patrols were 
caught in ambush, near Ville Pommeroeul between 6.30 
and 7 a.m., and two prisoners were taken, one a dragoon, 
the other a hussar : an indication of the presence of two 
more regiments, both of the German 9th Cavalry Division. 
The mounted troops of the British 5th Division crossed 
the Canal near the posts of the K.O.S.B. and of the West 
Kent ; and both battalions pushed a reserve company 
forward to secure their retreat. That of the West Kent, 
" A " Company, advanced to the road-junction south of 
the village of Tertre ; that of the Scottish Borderers to 
a pond about half a mile north of Les Herbieres road bridge. 
Each side was feeling for the other in expectation of the 
coming shock. 

There could be little doubt where the first blow would 
fall. The Germans were completing a wheel from east to 
south, and immediately opposite to the eastern, or stand- 
ing flank of Kluck's Army lay the Mons Salient. Before 
9 A.M. German guns were in position on the high ground 
north of the canal, and very soon shells were bursting 


thickly along the whole line of the Middlesex and the 23 Aug. 
Royal Fusiliers, One German battery commander boldly ^^^^* 
unlimbered his guns in the open, and began firing at a 
range of 1,500 yards ; but he was speedily compelled to 
shift his ground by the machine guns of the Middlesex. 
By 9 A.M. German infantry was pressing on to engage 
the Middlesex about Obourg and, as the hostile movement 
from north-east to south-west developed itself, troops, 
all apparently of the IX, Corps, gradually spread around 
the entire curve of the Salient from Obourg to Nimy. 
By 10 A.M. the company in Obourg was heavily engaged 
and, indeed, hard pressed ; and, shortly afterwards, the 
machine-gun section of the Royal Irish joined that of the 
Middlesex. Meanwhile, the Royal Fusiliers were cease- 
lessly shooting down Germans, who at first came on in 
heavy masses, but, being caught by the rapid fire of the 
Fusiliers in front and by the machine guns of the Middlesex 
and Royal Irish in flank, soon abandoned this costly method 
of attack. They then began working across the front in small 
parties, in order to form for a fresh effort under cover of the 
woods. The British troops in the Salient had orders to make 
" a stubborn resistance " ; the Middlesex and the Royal 
Fusiliers, therefore, defended themselves with tenacity, and 
until past 11 a.m. were still holding their original positions. 

As the southward wheel of Kluck's Army progressed, 
the attack gradually spread westward along the line of the 
canal. The right of the German IX. Corps did not appear 
to extend beyond Nimy ; ^ and it was not until 11 a.m. 
that the ///. Corps, which was next on the right of it, 
came into action about the bridge of Jemappes, 2 miles 
west of Mons. German shells fell in Jemappes itself, in 
rear of the Scots Fusiliers ; the infantry almost simul- 
taneously advanced in heavy lines. The forward post of 
the Scots Fusiliers north of the canal was thereupon with- 
drawn, and, as the Germans came nearer, they were met by 
a fire of rifles and machine guns which effectually checked 
their progress. After a pause they came on again, taking 
shelter behind the northern bank of the canal, and actually 
closed to within two hundred yards of the bridge at Lock 
2, west of Jemappes, when they were compelled by the 
accuracy of the British fire once more to fall back.^ 

^ This is now known to be correct (see Sketch 3 in " Mons "). 
^ Hauptmann (Professor) Heubner, of the 20th Infantry Regiment, 
5lh Division, III. Corps, who witnessed tlie attack at Jemappes, in his 

78 MONS 

At Mariette, 3| miles west of Mons, still in the 9th 
Brigade area, German shells found the bridge immedi- 
ately, and a column of infantry in fours came swinging 
down a country road immediately to the east. It was 
promptly stopped by the fire of a small party, under a 
corporal, which occupied a house in the angle between 
this road and the waterway. The enemy then tried an 
advance down the main road ; but this had been obstructed 
by a wire entanglement immediately north and west of the 
bridge, and by a barricade south of it ; two companies of 
the Fifth Fusiliers, too, under Major C. Yatman (the other 
two companies were in brigade reserve at Cuesnes) were 
disposed, under good shelter, on both flanks of the road, 
both in advance and in rear of the bridge. Under a 
withering fire from three sides, the Germans pressed on 
to the wire, only to be driven back with heavy loss. 

They now brought up two field guns within half a mile 
of the canal, and opened fire with high-explosive shell upon 
the defenders of the bridge : not without effect, for a shell 
bursting in the occupied house on the east side of the road 
killed the whole of the little garrison. But, instead of 
grey-coated soldiers, a number of little Belgian girls came 
down the road, and the Fifth Fusiliers naturally ceased 
their fire.^ Thereupon, the Germans swarmed forward 
and, flooding over to the western side of the main road, 
were able to establish themselves within two hundred 
yards of the canal, whence they could bring an oblique 
fire to bear upon the defenders of the barricade. The 
advanced party of the Fifth on the north side of the bridge 
was then withdrawn ; but the Germans were still far from 
being masters of the passage of the canal at Mariette ; and 
the Fifth Fusiliers for the moment held their own with no 
great difficulty and without serious loss. 

Further to the left, in the 13th Brigade area, " A " Com- 
pany of the West Kent, at the cross roads south of Tertre, 
which was in support of the 5th Division mounted troops, 
was warned by the cyclists of the advance of the enemy in 

book " Unter Emmich vor Liittich, Unter Kluck vor Paris," pp. 69 and 74, 
speaks of the " numerous wounded " of the regiment which attempted 
to storm the railway and factory ; and at the end of the day says " that 
" they [the Enghsh], in any case, fought bravely and obstinately is proved 
" by the heavy losses that our German troops suffered here." 

^ E\ndence of Captain B. T. St. John, conunanding the company of 
the Fifth Fusiliers which held Mariette Bridge. It is not suggested that 
the enemy drove them deliberately in front of him. In many cases 
inhabitants were caught between the two hostile lines. 


force. This company had found a fair field of fire ; but the 23 Aug. 
Hne of retreat to the canal was difficult, the ground being i^^*- 
cut up by many deep ditches and barbed wire fences. As 
far as time permitted, passages had been cut through the 
wire, so that during its retirement the company might not 
mask the fire of the main body on the canal ; but the 
preparations were scarcely completed before a small party 
of the cyclists came at top speed down the road from 
Tertre and reported that the Germans had brought up guns 
to drive them from the village. The leading German 
infantry regiment, the Brandenburg Grenadiers of the 5th 
Division of the ///. Corps, had, in fact, moved south- 
ward upon Tertre from Baudour, and the battalion 
which was at its head had encountered considerable re- 
sistance from the cyclists. Five minutes after this alarm 
had reached the West Kent company (that is to say at 
about 11.10 A.M.), this German battalion debouched from 
Tertre and moved southward, the bulk of the men being in 
massed formation on the eastern side of the road to St. 
Ghislain, with parties in extended order upon either flank. 
They were met by a shattering fire of rifles and machine 
guns, and were seen to suffer heavily. The commander of 
the German regiment then made a regular attack with the 
support of artillery, deploying his two remaining battalions 
to the right and left of the first. By the German account, 
the Brandenburgers suffered some loss in the village of 
Tertre from the British artillery, presumably from the 
guns of the 120th Battery on the canal. Meanwhile " A " 
Company commander received a message from the divisional 
cavalry, a squadron of the 19th Hussars, which had gone 
out in the direction of Hautrage, north-west of Tertre, 
asking him to cover its retirement ; and accordingly he 
clung to his position, while three German battalions, a 
German battery and a German machine-gun company all 
came into action against him. The pressure soon became 
so strong that he began gradually to withdraw by succession 
of platoons, the men behaving with the greatest steadiness 
and firing with great effect as the enemy came within 
closer range. The rearmost platoon, in fact, fought its 
way out with the Germans within a hundred yards of it 
in front and upon both flanks. Eventually about half of 
the company rejoined the battalion on the canal, the 
remainder having been killed or wounded, and left, in- 
evitably, to fall into the enemy's hands. This was the 
fate of the company commander, Captain G. D. Lister, 

80 MONS 

and of one of his subalterns ; but his men had made a 
magnificent fight and inflicted far heavier losses than they 

Having cleared this advanced party out of their way, 
the Brandenburg Grenadiers, covered now by the fire of 
four or five field batteries, swarmed forward over the maze 
of wire fences and boggy dykes against the main positions 
of the West Kent and the Scottish Borderers on the canal. 
The four guns of the British 120th Battery were soon 
compelled to withdraw, apparently about noon ; ^ though, 
later on, the remaining section found a position upon a 
slag-heap, further to the south and east, and came into 
action with considerable effect. But the positions of the 
British infantry were so well chosen and concealed that 
the German artillery failed to discover them, and hence 
the progress of the German infantry was both slow and 
costly. In any case, the attack upon the bridge of St, 
Ghislain was stopped while still three hundred yards dis- 
tant from the canal by the accurate fire of the West Kent, 
the machine guns of the K.O.Y.L.I., and the half company 
of the K.O.S.B., on the left of the bridge, who all alike had 
excellent targets, and took advantage of them to the full, 
with little loss to themselves. The Germans imagined 
that they were everywhere opposed by machine guns only, 
not realizing the intensity of British rapid fire.^ 

In this area, the enemy attack spread westward to- 
wards noon to the bridges of Les Herbieres, where the 
52nd Infantry Regiment contrived, with great skill, to pass 
men by driblets over the road into the reedy marshes 
alongside the canal, and even to send one or two machine 
guns with them. Reinforcements of the 2/Duke of Well- 
ington's and 2/K.O. Y.L.I, were called up about 2 p.m. in 

1 See page 74. 

2 A full and dramatic account of the attack of the Brandenburg 
Grenadier Regiment is given in " Vormarsch," by Walter Bloem, the 
novelist, who, as a reserve officer, was commanding one of the companies. 
He states that he lost all five of his company officers and half his men. 
The battalion commander said to him in the evening, " You are my sole 
" and only support . . . you are the only company commander left in the 
" battalion . . . the battalion is a mere wreck, my proud, beautiful 
*' battalion ! " And the regiment was " shot down, smashed up — only a 
" handful left." Bloem adds, " Our first battle is a heavy, unheard of heavy, 
" defeat, and against the English, the English we laughed at." The regi- 
ment was withdrawn a quarter of a mile as soon as it was dark, and spent 
an anxious night, for, as the colonel said, " if the English have the slight- 
'■ est suspicion of our condition, and counter-attack, they will simply run 
" over us." " Vormarsch " has been translated under the title of "The 

Advance from Mons 1914 " (Peter Davies). 



closer support of the Scottish Borderers, the former suffer- 23 Aug. 
ing a few casualties from shell fire ; but their services were i^^^- 
not required, for the German attack had already come to a 

At the railway bridge of Les Herbieres the Germans — 
of the 6th Division of the ///. Corps — began by bringing a 
machine gun into action in a house about half a mile from 
the barricade put up by the East Surrey (14th Brigade). 
This was instantly silenced by one of the East Surrey 
machine guns ; the Germans, thereupon, searched all the 
houses round the railway bridge with shell, in the hope of 
locating it. They then tried to push forward in small 
columns, but were stopped short by rifle and machine- 
gun fire, which also dispersed a group of German staff 
officers a thousand yards away and further to the east. 
The enemy then plied the East Surrey defences with 
shrapnel and machine-gun fire for half an hour, causing 
no casualties, but disabling one machine gun ; after which, 
about 1.30 P.M., he attacked with two battalions of the 
52nd in mass, which advanced across the open at a range 
of six hundred yards. Such a target was all that the 
British could wish for : another company of the East 
Surrey had by this time joined the one astride the embank- 
ment, and three platoons of the Suffolk had also come up 
to cover their left flank. Rapid rifle fire, combined with 
long bursts at selected objects from the remaining machine 
gun at the barricade, mowed down large numbers of the 
enemy and scattered the rest. At this point, therefore, 
the Germans were decisively repulsed with very heavy 
loss, at the cost of trifling casualties to the East Surrey. 

Thus far, seven miles west of Mons, the German attack 
had spread during the forenoon and the early afternoon ; the 
line of the infantry of the ///. Corps did not extend further 
westward, while that of the / V. Corps had not had time to 
complete its wheel to the south, so that the 1/Duke of 
Cornwall's L.I. at Pommeroeul had not yet come into 

Throughout the forenoon and the early afternoon. Map 7. 
that is to say, until 2 p.m., all had remained quiet opposite 
the I. Corps, which it will be remembered faced north- 
east. Between 11 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. the 2nd Division 
had reached its destination, and the 6th Brigade took 
position on the left of the corps between Vellereille le Sec 
and Harmignies, with the 4th (Guards) Brigade in rear 


82 MONS 

of it about Harveng, and the 5th still further to the rear 
at Genly and Bougnies. The 3rd and 6th Brigades now 
therefore held the front of the I. Corps. About 2 p.m. 
German guns at some point between Binche and Bray, 
3| miles to the north-east, opened fire upon the ridge of 
Haulehin, against the left of the 3rd Brigade. About half 
an hour later German cavalry ^ was seen moving across 
the British front north-west from Bray towards St. Sym- 
phorien. The 22nd and 70th Field Batteries, which were 
unlimbered about Vellereille le Sec, were able to shell these 
parties with good effect, but in return were heavily shelled 
by batteries which they were unable to locate. The 4th 
(Guards) Brigade was pushed forward to extend the line 
of the 6th from Harmignies north-west along the road to 
Mons, and various battalions, coming under artillery fire in 
the course of the afternoon, suffered a few casualties. But 
heavy firing could be heard to the north about Mons. 
About 3 P.M. a message from Major-General H. I. W. 
Hamilton reported a serious attack on the 3rd Division, 
and asked for assistance. Though the situation on the 
right of the I. Corps was not yet clear, for the Germans 
were still shelling the 3rd Brigade severely. General Haig 
directed that two battalions of the 4th (Guards) Brigade 
should take over the defence of Hill 93 from the 3rd 
Division, and thus afford it some relief. The news brought 
in by the 1st and 2nd Division cavalry at 3 p.m., that 
the French east of the I. Corps had been obliged to fall 
back a little, might well cause some anxiety ; but the more 
pressing danger lay on the left of the I. Corps in the vicinity 
of Mons. In every other sector of the line the British 
were holding their own with ease, and were punishing all 
attempts to force the passage of the canal with severity ; 
but in the Salient, the weakest and most critical point of 
the line, the situation was not so satisfactory. 

Map 7. We left the 4/Middlesex of the 8th Brigade, and the 
4/Royal Fusiliers of the 9th between 11 a.m. and noon 
making " a stubborn resistance " on the curve from Obourg 
to Nimy, north-east of Mons. Br.-General Doran (8th 
Brigade) had early given orders to the 2/Royal Irish, 
whose companies had covered the ground in front of Hill 
93 and Bois la Haut during the night, to assemble north 
of the latter hill, and by noon the entire battalion was 
collected there. Just about that time, the Middlesex at 

1 The 16th Dragoons (see " Mons "). 


Obourg, finding that Germans were nearly in rear of them, 2.3 Aug. 
began to fall back westward through the Bois d'Havre, ^^i*- 
the wood just south of Obourg, and the enemy artillery 
began to shell the main line of the 8th Brigade, south-east 
of Mons, with shrapnel, but without much effect ; for it 
could not see the position of the Royal Scots along the 
Harmignies — Mons road, and the majority of the Gordon 
Highlanders were hidden from view. Infantry then ad- 
vanced by rushes obliquely across the front of these two 
battalions, heading for Hill 93 and offering excellent 
targets. The rifles of both battalions were soon effectively 
employed, whilst the machine guns of the Royal Scots, 
thrown slightly forward in a quarry about the centre of 
the Hne, poured in a deadly enfilade fire. The 49th Battery 
also contributed to the enemy's discomfiture by firing 
shrapnel from Bois la Haut. Thus, in this quarter the 
enemy was brought to a complete standstill three hundred 
yards from the British trenches. 

Within the Salient the conditions were very different. 
The Germans shortly after noon succeeded in passing 
the canal west of Obourg, and in reaching the railway ; 
then, taught by hard experience, they abandoned massed 
formation and advanced in extended order. At 12.30 p.m. 
the Royal Irish were ordered to reinforce the Middlesex 
and moved off in the direction of Hill 62 under heavy 
fire of artillery and machine guns, which so delayed them 
that it was nearly 1.30 p.m. before they deployed on the 
left of the Middlesex. Anything in the nature of a local 
counter-attack to relieve the situation was out of the 
question, owing to wire fences and other obstacles. Far 
from gaining ground, the Royal Irish could only just hold 
their own. They now shifted their machine guns, which 
had previously been massed with those of the Middlesex, 
to the extreme right of their own front. They had not 
long been there when a body of Uhlans debouched from 
a wood about six hundred yards east of them : instantly 
fire was opened from both rifles and machine guns. The 
German horsemen turned about but, as they retired, were 
caught in flank by the fire of some of the Middlesex falling 
back from Obourg. This, however, though satisfactory, 
was but an incident if the IX. Corps was attacking in 
earnest, and every minute went to show that this was the 

The situation of the Royal Irish and the Middlesex was 
precarious in the extreme ; for they were not in a well con- 

84 MONS 

cealed position which the German artillery could not exactly 
locate, or with a good field of fire before them. On the 
contrary, their ground was under good observation from 
the heights on the north of the canal ; and the German 
batteries,^ having complete ascendency, kept them under 
heavy fire. Under the protection of this fire, the enemy 
infantry slowly gained ground by sheer weight of numbers, 
although not without loss. Shortly after 2 p.m. the 
machine-gun section of the Royal Irish tried to come into 
action on the road about three hundred yards north of 
Bois la Haut, but one gun was at once disabled and had 
to be abandoned. Returning to the original position, the 
remaining gun again came into action, but called down 
upon itself a concentrated fire of guns and machine guns, 
which disabled it immediately and killed or wounded every 
man of the section. The machine guns of the Middlesex 
were also in trouble ; for the Germans had brought up at 
least six of these weapons against them, and the officer 
in command of the section had been wounded, though he 
still remained in charge of his men. By 3.15 p.m. the 
German infantry, in great force, was within a furlong of 
the Royal Irish and working round both flanks ; so, 
after consultation with Lieut-. Colonel C. P. A. Hull of the 
Middlesex, Major S. E. St. Leger who was in command 
decided to withdraw the Royal Irish some fifteen hundred 
yards southward to the northern slopes of Bois la Haut. 
The right of their line moved first, meanwhile the re- 
mainder were collected into two bodies : one by Colonel 
Hull on the northern slopes of Hill 62, and the other at 
its north-eastern corner. The latter helped greatly to 
cover the retreat, which was conducted methodically and 
in good order. Finally the battalion rallied on the left 
of the left company of the Gordons whose line now 
extended almost to the cross roads north of Bois la Haut, 
the time being then about 4 p.m. The shelling was still 
very heavy, and the cross roads themselves were swept 
by machine guns from the east, though some buildings 
at that point and the ground west of the cross roads 
gave some protection from bullets. A section of the 49th 
Battery unlimbered on the left of the Royal Irish and, 
though greatly exposed, gave them some support. 

The Middlesex fell back about the same time as the 
Royal Irish, between them and the 9th Brigade in Mons, 

1 Of the 18th Division between St. Denis and Masieres, 3 miles north- 
east of Mons. 


though, being more widely extended, they were less easily 23 Aug. 
re-formed. One company, on leaving the Bois d'Havre, i^i*- 
which lies south of Obourg, entered the deserted rifle pits 
of the Royal Irish and there for a time stood fast. But 
the retreat of both battalions was facilitated by the fate 
of the first German attack upon the hill of Bois la Haut 
itself. This attack was opened by about a company of 
German infantry, which, with scouts in front of it, emerged 
gradually from a wood against the left centre company of 
the Gordons. The Highlanders allowed the scouts to ad- 
vance and held their fire until greater numbers appeared ; 
then they opened rapid fire at five hundred yards' range, 
and in a few minutes stopped the attack with heavy loss. 
Thereby a short respite was gained, which enabled the 
retiring battalions to settle down in their new positions. 

Earlier, at 2 p.m., the Royal Fusiliers, in obedience to 
Br.-General Shaw's (9th Brigade) orders, withdrew south- 
wards from Nimy, the supporting companies covering the 
retirement of the advanced companies with peace-time 
precision. Their losses did not greatly exceed one hundred ; 
and after re-forming in Mons the battalion moved south- 
ward again to Ciply.^ The Lincolnshire had been em- 
ployed since noon in barricading the three roads which 
lead from Mons to the south ; but the Germans did not 
follow the Royal Fusiliers very closely, and when at last 
they tried to debouch by the main road from Mons, 
they were met by a destructive fire from the Lincolnshire 
at the barricade and by a few shells from the 109th 
Battery at close range. Unable to make any progress, 
they turned westward, leaving the Lincolnshire to retire 
at their leisure by Mesvin upon Nouvelles, 3 miles south 
of Mons. 

Owing to the close proximity of the enemy only the 
bridge over the canal to the north-west of Mons was blown 
up in this sector, although charges were laid. An officer 
of the 57th Field Company R.E. was taken prisoner at the 
Nimy bridge and all the work was done under sniping. 
One charge which had been placed in position was removed 
by a shell. 

West of the Salient, about 3 p.m the Scots Fusiliers (9th xAlap 7. 
Brigade) likewise fell back, by order, through Jemappes 

^ Lieut. M. J. Dease (who died of wounds) and Private S. F. Godley 
of the 4/Royal FusiHers were awarded the V.C. for the manner in which 
they fought the machine gvms. All the men of two crews were killed or 

86 MONS 

upon Frameries, 3 miles from the canal. Here, since two of 
the three bridges had not been destroyed, from lack of an 
" exploder" to fire the charges, the Germans followed hard 
after, and there M^as sharp fighting among the slag-heaps. 
Some of the Fusiliers, firing from the houses, used their 
weapons with special effect ; but two companies seeking a 
route between the slag-heaps suffered much from machine 
guns which the Germans had instantly brought forward, 
and for a time were in serious difficulties, the ground being 
most unfavourable either for defence or for the co-opera- 
tion of artillery. About 4 p.m., however, a portion of the 
two reserve companies of the Fifth Fusiliers, which 
were covering the retirement of the right of the 9th 
Brigade, struck in from the east upon the flank of the 
Germans, and, after some fighting, enabled the Scots 
Fusiliers to extricate themselves and to re-form in 
Frameries. The German guns were sufficiently far ad- 
vanced to shell the position of the South Lancashire (7th 
Brigade), a mile north of the village, but only one or two 
^^^,^ small parties of enemy infantry approached it. The two 

, U^im^n forward companies of the Fifth Fusiliers^eanwhile stuck 
' ^ to their position on the canal, in spite of the command to 

''*''^^*' retire, in order to cover the engineers who were preparing 
*w«^«^^^'j;he bridge of Mariette for destruction. Despite the re- 
markable coolness and gallantry of Captain T. Wright, 
R.E,,^ who swung himself forward, hand over hand, under 
the bridge to connect the charges, the work could not be 
completed, though he made a second attempt after being 
wounded in the head. It was not until 5 p.m. when the 
sappers had withdrawn, after collecting all their gear, that 
these two companies of the Fifth retired towards Frameries. 
The Germans made no effort to press them and, in fact, 
did not immediately cross the bridge. 

Further to the left, the 13th Brigade still held its posi- 
tion on the canal, though the fire of the German artillery 
steadily increased in the course of the afternoon. The 
enemy, indeed, pushed forward three batteries to within 
twelve hundred yards of the canal about St. Ghislain, and 
smothered the 13th Brigade with shells, but did remarkably 
little damage. Indeed, it was not until about 6 p.m., when 
guns were brought up within close range and destroyed the 

1 Captain Wright, who was killed on the Aisne, 14th September, 
received the V.C. for this service. Lance-Corporal C. A. Jarvis, 57th Field 
Company, R.E., also received it for working 1^ hours imder heavy fire 
and successfully firing the charges at Jemappes station bridge. 


barricade over Les Herbieres road bridge that the Scottish 23 Aug. 
Borderers withdrew to the southern bank. The East i^i"*- 
Surreys (14th Brigade) withdrew their advanced parties 
from north of the canal about the same time. The bat- 
tahon then retired by alternate companies to the position 
ordered near Thulin, south of the Haine. Nevertheless in 
this quarter the Germans were unable to make the slight- 
est progress, and, indeed, at dusk the West Kent were still 
holding their position north of the canal. ^ Parties of the 
17th Field Company R.E. remained near the bridges in 
this sector until 1.30 a.m. on the 24th, when, after all the 
infantry had withdrawn, they blew up the railway and 
road bridges at St. Ghislain, and the three bridges to the 

On the left of the East Surreys the Duke of Cornwall's 
L.I. were left wholly undisturbed until 4.45 p.m. when a 
mass of German cavalry coming down the road from Ville 
Pommeroeul was driven back headlong by machine-gun 
and rapid rifle fire. Immediately afterwards, the advanced 
parties were recalled to the southern bank of the canal ; the 
bridge was blown up by the 59th Field Company R.E., and 
the adjacent bridges near Pommeroeul by the 1st Field 
Squadron R.E. ; and then all fell back across the Haine 
to the second position. 

On the extreme left, the 19th Brigade relieved the 
Cavalry Division between 2 and 3 p.m., the 1/Middlesex 
and the Cameronians taking the line up to Conde. Soon 
after 5 p.m. an attack was made upon Lock 5, when 
the enemy contrived to mount a machine gun in a house 
commanding the buildings. The lock bridge was therefore 
blown up by the 1st Field Squadron R.E., but the 1/Middle- 
sex, though it abandoned the buildings, continued to hold 
its own without difficulty and with trifling loss. The two 
bridges at St. Aybert, further west, were destroyed at 
3 A.M. on the 24th, after all the cavalry parties had come in. 

Such, therefore, was the condition of affairs west of Map 7. 
the Salient whilst the 2/Royal Irish and 4/Middlesex were 
defending their second position north of Bois la Haut ; the 
facts most important to them were, that the Germans, in 
consequence of the retirement, by order, of the 9th Brigade, 
were defiling through Mons, and, though checked for a 
time at its southern border, had nearly reached Frameries, 
3 miles south-west of the town. About 5 p.m. the main 

^ See page 80, f.n. 2. 

88 MONS 

body of the Royal Irish was again forced to retire. By 
that time the men of the Middlesex who had occupied the 
rifle pits of the Royal Irish, many of their rifles being so 
clogged with sand as to be useless, were overwhelmed by 
the attacking swarms of Germans, Then came the turn 
of their machine-gun section which, with the water boiling 
furiously in the jackets of the guns, fired away its last 
rounds of ammunition into the masses of the enemy, and 
was then overpowered. Having no other position in rear 
which offered any field of fire, the main body of the Royal 
Irish re-formed west of the northern end of Bois la Haut, 
their withdrawal being assisted by the left company of 
the Gordons. Here the 4/Middlesex passed through them 
and, taking the first road to the westward, marched 
towards Hyon (^ mile west of Bois la Haut) on their way 
to Nouvelles, their place in the second position. The Royal 
Irish started back along the same road, but had not 
proceeded far before they found the enemy ahead of 
them little more than a hundred yards away. Cramped 
between the steep slope of Bois la Haut and a tangle of 
buildings on the other side of the road, they could not 
deploy ; the battalion was obliged to turn northward 
and to work round the hill to its south-eastern angle. 
Here the guns of the 6th Battery, expecting an attack 
every minute, were disposed in a semi-circle, and the Royal 
Irish, together with a platoon of the Gordons which was 
acting as escort to the battery, entrenched themselves 
about the guns, facing north, west, and south. The enemy 
followed them up, but, being in no great strength, did not 
venture to attack. 

Meanwhile, the 23rd Battery had received orders to 
retire from the summit of Bois la Haut, and selected as 
its route a sunken lane leading due south into the main 
road to Hyon. Proceeding that way, the head of the 
battery had reached a point within a hundred yards of 
the main Hyon road, when the leading teams and drivers 
were all shot down by German infantrymen, who had come 
through Mons and were hidden behind a barricade at right 
angles to the end of the lane. The gunners went forward 
to engage the enemy with rifles, and, being joined by the 
battery escort of the Gordon Highlanders, drove the 
Germans back into Hyon with some loss. The enemy's 
barricade was then occupied, and a second barricade thrown 
up a little east of it ; some adjoining buildings were placed 
in a state of defence j and, while all ranks gave themselves 


to the task of clearing the lane, the major in command 23 Aug. 
of the battery went off to find Br.-General Doran (8th i^i*- 
Brigade). Although the light had now begun to fail, the 
23rd Battery was still in an unenviable situation. More- 
over, the Germans seemed bent upon pinning the 8th 
Brigade to its ground ; for between 7 and 8 p.m. they 
launched a general attack, without any preliminary bom- 
bardment, against the whole front of the Gordons and 
Royal Scots along the Harmignies — Mons road. The 
attenuated line of the Royal Scots had since 4 p.m. been 
reinforced by two companies of the Irish Rifles ^ from the 
7th Brigade, and the entire front blazed into a burst of 
rapid fire, which cut the Germans down by scores and 
brought them instantly to a complete standstill. 2 They 
then drew off, and some of them assembling about the 
cross-roads north-east of Bois la Haut, they were dis- 
persed anew by the fire of the little party of the Royal 
Irish installed there. Still, the general situation of the 
8th Brigade was insecure ; on its front the enemy, as 
he had just demonstrated, was in force, and in its rear 
parties had penetrated through Mons as far as Hyon. 

To review the British line from the Salient westward, Map 7. 
as it stood at nightfall : of the 3rd Division, the position 
of the 8th Brigade has just been described ; it was the apex 
of the new front. The 7th and 9th Brigades were en- 
trenched on its left between Nouvelles and Frameries three 
miles from the canal ; the guns had been withdrawn from 
Erebus to the vicinity of Frameries for the night. Of the 
5th Division, on the left of the 3rd, in the 13th Brigade 
the West Kent were still in their position on the canal, 
with orders to retire three miles south-east to Wasmes at 
midnight. They had lost little more than a hundred 
men ; from five to six hundred yards to their front the 
Brandenburg Grenadiers, who had suffered heavy loss, were 
entrenched in the marshv meadows on the north bank. 
On the left of the West Kent, the K.O.S.B. had just with- 
drawn their advanced companies from the north of the 
canal, and had repulsed, with great slaughter, an attempt 
of the Germans to debouch in mass from a wood opposite 
the left of their main line. The bridges over the canal on 

1 The 2/R. Irish Rifles had been attached about 2.30 p.m. to the 8th 
Brigade and had relieved the Royal Scots on Hill 93. 

2 The 75th Regiment lost 5 officers and 376 men in this attack. See 
Mons," pp. 33, 34. 

90 MONS 

their front were ready for demolition, and the K.O.S.B. were 
also preparing to march to Wasmes, some of the K.O.Y.L.I. 
coming forward to cover the movement. There was no 
sign of pursuit by the Germans, though even demolished 
bridges are not impassable for an enterprising infantry. 
Opposite Les Herbieres the East Surreys and the re- 
mainder of the 14th Brigade had joined, or were in the 
act of joining, the Duke of Cornwall's L.I. in the second 
position south of the Haine. Here the enemy, after suffer- 
ing severely while passing the canal from the machine 
guns of the D. C.L.I, and the Manchester, was firing 
away an immense amount of ammunition with very little 
result. On the extreme left, the 19th Brigade was in 
position on the bank of the canal. 

Thus it will be observed that there was no uniformity 
of movement from the outpost line on the canal to the 
main position in rear : the characteristic obstinacy of the 
British infantry, which has always fought on without much 
regard to what was happening in other parts of the field, 
was thus early made manifest, in spite of the efforts of 
the Staff to co-ordinate the withdrawal. The 13th Brigade 
did not attempt to retire until night, though the brigades 
to the right and left of it had fallen back in the afternoon. 
The 19th Brigade also stood fast. As a result of the 
retirement of the two divisions from the outpost line on 
the canal to the position south of Mons, the left of the 3rd 
Division remained as heretofore on the road between 
Frameries and Cuesmes, but the right of the 5th Division 
extended no further than to the road from Quaregnon to 
Paturages ; between the inner flanks of the divisions there 
was a gap, almost entirely covered by houses, of some two 
miles. This gap had been foreseen by II. Corps head- 
quarters, and more than one message passed early in the 
afternoon between General Smith-Dorrien and G.H.Q, and 
the Staff of the I. Corps with reference to using the 5th 
Brigade (Br.-General R. C. B. Haking) to fill it, as this 
brigade was close at hand in reserve near Genly, in rear of 
Frameries. As a first measure, General Smith-Dorrien 
ordered the 1 /Bedford from the 15th Brigade to Paturages, 
and, later on, three battalions of the 5th Brigade arrived 
from the I. Corps, in compliance with his request. Two 
battalions of the 4th (Guards) Brigade had moved up late 
in the evening to Hill 93, and were in touch with the Royal 
Scots, thus completing the junction between the I. and II. 


The only thing which still remained in doubt was the 23 Aug. 
fate of part of the 8th Brigade and the artillery with it. i^^** 
At 9 P.M. orders were issued by Br.-General Doran to fall 
back to the new position at Nouvelles. The party of the 
Royal Irish at the cross-roads, having clung to their little 
stronghold till 10 p.m., joined the Gordons, bringing with 
them one of the battalion machine guns, which had been 
repaired from the wreck of the other. The 6th Battery 
guns were man-handled to the foot of Bois la Haut, where 
the teams were hooked in. These guns and the Royal 
Irish were the first to move off, about 11 p.m. Meanwhile 
the 23rd Battery had been working hard to clear the lane 
and extricate its guns. Interference by a strong German 
patrol soon after dark was stopped without serious diffi- 
culty, and by 10 p.m. the road was free and the battery 
ready to march. Shortly afterwards the battery com- 
mander returned, having walked through some German 
troops, and by his orders, shortly before midnight, the 
battery drove off as noiselessly as possible — the Germans 
being within three hundred yards of it — eastward to the 
Beaumont road and thence, by Spiennes, to Nouvelles. 
Then the Gordon Highlanders marched off, the Royal Scots 
opening fire to drown the tramp of men and the clatter of 
vehicles. Finally the Royal Scots withdrew, company by 
company, and before 3 a.m. on the 24th the whole of the 
8th Brigade, together with the three batteries attached to 
it, was safe in Nouvelles. The two Guards battalions and 
the Royal Irish Rifles left Hill 93 shortly after 2 a.m. 

Altogether, the British commanders were not ill- 
satisfied with the day's work. The unsatisfactory position 
on the canal had been imposed upon them fortuitously ; 
but it had been held for a sufficient time, and had been 
evacuated, without great difficulty or disaster, in favour 
of a second position only a mile or two in rear. The men, 
too, were in high spirits, for they had met superior numbers 
of the most highly renowned army in the world and had 
given a good account of themselves.^ The total casualties 
amounted to just over sixteen hundred of all ranks, killed, 
wounded and missing. The whole of these, except forty, 
were sustained by the II. Corps, and practically half of 
them by two battalions of the 8th Brigade in the Salient. ^ 

^ It may be of interest to note that the strength of the 3rd and 5th 
Divisions, those principally engaged at Mons, was just under 36,000 ; 
the strength of the British Army at the battle of VVaterioo was 31,585 
(Wellington Despatches, xii. pp. 485-7). 

* The 4/Middlesex had lost over 400 and the 2/Royal Irish over 300. 

92 MONS 

The only loss of artillery was that of two guns of the 120th 
Battery, which could not be removed from their exposed 
position on the canal at St. Ghislain. 

The general result of the action was that the German 
advance was delayed a whole day. Kluck's orders for 
the 23rd August had directed the ///. and IV. Corps to 
" occupy the rising ground on the southern side of the 
canal," whilst the IX. Corps was to advance via Mons to 
the north and north-western front of Maubeuge. The 
positions prescribed for the 23rd were actually the limits 
of advance on the 24th.^ Judged by the units whose 
casualties are now known, the enemy losses must have 
been very heavy. And this is confirmed by the behaviour 
of the Germans as it grew dusk. The success in the 
Salient against the 8th Brigade was not exploited. Nor 
did any enemy appear elsewhere to take advantage of the 
gaps in the British line or to embarrass the retirement. 
As at the close of a manoeuvre day, German bugles, to the 
astonishment of the British troops near the canal, were 
heard to sound the " Cease fire," repeating it along the 
line unit by unit, and then, after some little singing at one 
place, all was quiet. But the enemy showed his nervous- 
ness and fear of a night attack by the constant discharge 
of illuminating flares, which the British soldier then saw 
for the first time. 

There was no real anxiety at G.H.Q., therefore, except 
as regards events in the French Fifth Army further east. 
During the day the Flying Corps had reported fighting 
about Charleroi, two powerful German columns moving 
south-westward from Charleroi and from Luttre, and a 
heavy engagement at Thuin, the left of the French Fifth 
Army. 2 A report which came to hand soon after 5 p.m. 

1 See Note at end of Chapter. 

2 The following message was dictated by Sir John French to Colonel 
G. M. W. Macdonogh and telephoned by the latter at 3.10 p.m. to Lieutenant 
Spears (liaison officer) at Philippeville for communication to General Lan- 
rezac, in reply to the latter's enquiry for information as to the British action : 

" I am waiting for the dispositions arranged for to be carried out, 
" especially the posting of French cavalry corps on my left. 

" I am prepared to fulfil the role allotted to me when the Fifth Army 
" advances to the attack. In the meantime I hold an advanced defensive 
" position extending from Cond6 on the left through Mons to Erquelines, 
" where I connect with the two Reserve divisions south of the Sambre. 

" I am now much in advance of the line held by the Fifth Army, and 
" feel my position to be as forward as circumstances will allow, particularly 
*' in view of the fact that I am not properly prepared to take offensive 
" action till to-morrow morning, as I have previously informed you. 

" I do not understand from your wire that the XVIII. Corps has as 
" yet been engaged and they stand on my inner flank." 


stated that Tournai appeared to be in the enemy's hands, 23 Aug. 
and that a long column of all arms was moving southward ^^i*- 
through Ladeuze (13 miles west of Soignies), Grosage and 
Neufmaison towards Ville Pommeroeul.^ The conclusion 
to which this intelligence tended was, that the enemy would 
probably continue to develop his attack during the night 
and upon the following day. At 8.40 p.m. this conclusion 
was embodied in a message from Sir John French to the 
II. Corps : " I will stand the attack on the ground now 
" occupied by the troops. You will therefore strengthen 
" your position by every possible means during the night." 

Further information, however, which arrived from 
French Fifth Army Headquarters during the evening and 
just before midnight — when Lieutenant Spears brought the 
news that General Lanrezac had decided to order a retreat 
to begin at 3 a.m. next morning — led the British Com- 
mander-in-Chief to decide that his position in advance of 
the general line was strategically untenable, and that an 
immediate retirement was necessary. He thereby escaped, 
to use the enemy's words, a " veritable wasps' nest " ^ 
and his action fell in with the wishes of General Joffre, 
official notification of which reached him next day shortly 
after 1 p.m. in two messages. 

The first message was to the effect that the French 
commander had decided that his Fifth Army should man- 
oeuvre in retreat and rest its left on the fortress of Mau- 
beuge, and its right on the wooded massif of the Ardennes, 
remaining in liaison with the British Expeditionary Force 
by means of cavalry. The second pointed out the desira- 
bility of delaying the advance of the enemy between 
Maubeuge — Valenciennes, and gave Cambrai as the general 
direction of retirement for the British if the enemy should 
appear in superior force, with their right on Le Cateau, 
and their left on the water line Denain — Bouchain — Arleux. 
G.H.Q. informed General Joffre that the British Force 
was falling back slowly to the position Maubeuge — Valen- 
ciennes, and that, if driven from this, it would act in 
accordance with his wishes. 

The reason for these messages was sufficiently cogent. 
As a result of his operations on the 23rd, General de Langle 
de Cary had ordered a general retirement of the French 
Fourth Army on the 24th to the line Montmedy — Sedan — 
Mezieres, that is, the line of the Chiers and Meuse. In 
consequence of the failure of the Fourth Army to get 
^ The German IV. Corps. * Lieut.-General von Zwelil. 

94 MONS 

forward, General Lanrezae's right flank on the Meuse was 
not only exposed to attack, but his right rear was actually 
attacked by the German Third Army from the east, whilst 
the German Second Army advanced against his main force 
near Charleroi from the north. On the night of the 
23rd/24th, therefore, General Lanrezac ordered the French 
Fifth Army to commence retiring before daybreak south 
of the general line Givet — Philippe ville — Beaumont — Mau- 
beuge, with its left, the XVIII. Corps, about Solre le 
Chateau, 22 miles south-east of Mons. General Vala- 
bregue, hearing of the attack on the XVIII. Corps near 
Thuin on the 23rd, had assembled his Reserve divisions 
that night near Cousolre, 10 miles due east of Maubeuge. 
There w^as therefore not only a considerable gap between 
the Allied forces, but the French were preparing a retire- 
ment which might increase it. 

The German Account of Mons 

The monograph " Die Schlacht bei Mons," published by the 

German General Staff at the end of 1919, gives a very clear account 

of the fight, with excellent maps showing the attacks of the different 

Sketches corps. According to this, 3 J divisions (the 17th, 18th, 6th and part 

4 & 5. of oih) of the First Army attacked the British 3rd Division, and 2i 

Map 5. (part of 5th, the 7th and 8th) the British 5th Division. 

The IX. Corps {17th and 18th Divisions) attacked south-west 
towards Mons on the front Villers Ghislain — Nimy. On its right 
came the ///. Corps (6th and 5th Divisions) against Jemappes and 
Les Herbieres and, further west, as far as Lock No. 5, the IV. Corps 
{7th and 8th Divisions). At nightfall the VII. Corps of the Second 
Army, on the left of the IX., had got no further than Binche, and the 
//. Corps, on the right of the IV., was some 15 miles north of Conde, 
still marching southwards heading for that town, with the //. Cavalry 
Corps on its right facing westwards towards Tourcoing — Roubaix — ■ 

It was part of the 17th Division artillery (six batteries) behind 
Villers Ghislain, and possibly some of the VII. Corps artillery, 
covered by the 16th Dragoons and a Fusilier battalion, which fired 
on the I. Corps as related in the narrative. 

The German account is frank enough ; it states : "Well en- 
trenched and completely hidden, the enemy opened a murderous 
fire . . . the casualties increased . . . the rushes became shorter, 
" and finally the whole advance stopped . . . with bloody losses, 
" the attack gradually came to an end." As soon as it got dark the 
Germans gladly stopped. 

In the 17th Division the 75th {Bremen) Regiment lost 5 officers 
and 376 men in one attack. This division made no attempt to 
advance after dusk fell. 




In the 18th Division at the beginning of darkness the brigades 
dug in on the Hne which they had reached, and bivouacked. 

The 6th Division got across the canal, but towards 7 p.m. all 
attempts to advance failed, and the division Avent into bivouac. 
" Fighting posts, pushed a few hundred yards out, protected the 
" tired troops." 

The 5th Division failed to get across the canal. One of its regi- 
ments, the 12th Brandenburg Grenadiers, whose attack on the West 
Kent has been referred to, had lost " 25 officers and far more than 
" 500 N.C.O.'s and men," when " the summer night settled on the 
" blood-stained battle-field and with its shade gave a protecting 
" curtain against the hostile fire." It was this division whose singing 
was heard : to cheer themselves, the men sang " Deutschland iiber 
" alles." 

The IV. Corps did not cross the canal during the battle. Some 
patrols managed to get over after midnight, but " up to 9 p.m. the 
" enemy fire was as strong as ever." 

Kluck, according to the General Staff account, " after the stub- 
" born defence of the enemy, especially opposite the ///. Corps, 
" expected that the British would offer energetic resistance again 
" next day on the high ground south of Mons. He therefore resolved 
" to continue the attack next day enveloping the left flank, with the 
" intention of cutting off the enemy's retreat to the west.''' ^ The 
//. Cavalry Corps was ordered south to assist. Kluck, in his version 
of his orders, adds " The attack will be so directed as to force the 
" enemy into Maubeuge." 

The German Official Account of the battle ends with the words : — 

" A decision had seemingly not been obtained. Only the en- 
" velopment of the British by the right wing of the Armies could 
" lead to this. Whether the German leaders could manage to carry 
" out this manoeuvre, in time, against the left wing and left flank 
" of the British was now of vital importance for the result of the 
" great battle, not only to the First Army, but to the whole German 
" front." 

The attempt was to fail on the 24th, and fail again on the 26th 
at Le Cateau, and the final result was to be the envelopment of the 
German right itself by the Allied left wing.^ 

^ Kuhl's "Marne," p. 70, confirms this. 

2 It may be recalled that on this day, the 23rd August, began the 
battle of Tannenberg, which ended on the 31st with the complete defeat 
of the Russian Second Army (General Samsonov) ; also the battle of 
Krasnic, the first of the encounters of the long struggle in Galicia between 
the Russian Armies of the South- West front and the Austro-Hungarians, 
which ended on the 11th September with the retreat of the latter. 



24th August 

(Sketches A & 4 ; Maps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 13) 

Sketches The night of the 23rd/24th August passed without serious 
A & 4. disturbance of any kind from the enemy ; and at dawn on 
the 24th the Army occupied a Hne facing roughly north- 
east, seventeen miles long, with the centre some three 
miles south of Mons. The positions from right to left 
were : — 

Maps 6 


I. Corps : 

1st Division 

5th Cavalry Brigade 

2nd Division : 

6th Brigade . 

4th do. . 

5th do. . 

2/Connaught Rangers 

II. Corps : 

3rd Division : 

8th Brigade . 

7th do. . 

9th do. . 
5th Division : 

l/Bedford (loth Bde.) 

13th Brigade 

1/Dorset (15th Bde.) 

14th Brigade 

15th do. 

(less two battalions) 
19th Brigade . 
Cavalry Division . 


Grand Reng, Rouveroy, Givry. 







Hornu — Bois de Boussu. 

. Champ des Sarts- 
. fThulin, Elouges, 
. \ Quievrain. 



The bulk of the Army had been subjected to great 24 Aug. 
fatigue. The 1st Division, though scarcely engaged, had ^^^^• 
been hurried into its place by a forced march during the 
night of the 22nd/23rd and had been under arms for 
eighteen hours before it could billet or bivouac. Of the 
II. Corps, the 8th Brigade had been fighting all day, and the 
greater part of it obtained no rest until the early morning 
of the 24th. The 9th Brigade did not get into billets at 
Frameries until late. The 13th Brigade did not reach its 
assigned position much before daylight on the 24th, and 
the 14th Brigade was little earlier. The 15th Brigade 
fared better, though it did not settle down until midnight. 
The 19th Brigade had only just left the train at Valen- 
ciennes, when it was hurried up to take over a sector of 
the outpost line. Altogether, the circumstances were very 
trying for the reservists, who formed 60 per cent, of the 
infantry, and were for the most part still out of con- 

Shortly after 11 p.m. on the 23rd the senior General Staff Map 3, 
officers of the I. and II. Corps and of the Cavalry Division 
had been summoned, in view of a possible retirement, to 
G.H.Q. at Le Cateau. There about 1 a.m. the Chief of 
the General Staff explained to them that it was the in- 
tention of Sir John French to make a general retreat south- 
wards of about eight miles to an east and west line, pre- 
viously reconnoitred, from La Longueville (five miles west 
of Maubeuge) westward through Bavai and four miles 
bej^ond it to the hamlet of La Boiserette,^ a front of 
about seven miles. He instructed the General Staff 
officers that the corps were to retire in mutual co-operation, 
the actual order of retirement to be settled by the two 
corps commanders in consultation. Br.-General Forestier- 
Walker left immediately by motor car, as telegraphic com- 
munication between G.H.Q. and II. Corps headquarters, 
thirty-five miles off, was interrupted ; but Br.-General 
J. E. Gough was able to send off a message, which reached 
General Haig about 2 a.m., with the additional informa- 
tion that the I. Corps was to cover the retirement of 
the II., the cavalry simultaneously making a demonstra- 
tion, and that the roads through Maubeuge were not open 
to the British. G.H.Q. further suggested that the left of 
the I. Corps should receive particular attention, and that 
the line from Bonnet (six miles north of Maubeuge) west- 
wards to Blaregnies should be firmly established before the 
^ Misspelt La Bois Crette on some maps. 


98 MONS 

II. Corps was withdrawn. Actually, it was nearly midday 
on the 24th before the corps commanders found opportunity 
to meet and arrange how these suggestions should be put 
into practice.^ 
Map 6. To carry out G.H.Q. orders the I. Corps detailed a 
special rear guard, composed of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, 
J Battery, the XXXVI. and XLI. Brigades R.F.A., and 
the 4th (Guards) Brigade (Br.-General R. Scott-Kerr), 
under the command of Br.-General H. S. Home, R.A., of 
the corps staff. It was to concentrate at Bonnet and 
make an offensive demonstration at daybreak, so as to 
delay the enemy's leading troops whilst the 1st and 2nd 
Divisions fell back. 

To save time. General Haig motored to 1st and 2nd 
Division headquarters and in person issued orders for 
them to retire by two roads on Feignies and Bavai. The 
main body of the 1st Division marched off at 4 a.m., un- 
molested, except by a little ineffective shelling, and by a 
few small bodies of cavalry, which were roughly handled 
and dispersed by infantry and artillery fire. The 2nd 
Division followed at 4.45 a.m. and was equally undisturbed. 
Even the rear guard was not really troubled : ^ the 4th 
(Guards) Brigade retired by successive echelons from 
Harveng and Bougnies to a position two miles back be- 
tween Quevy le Petit and Genly, pursued only by heavy 
but innocuous bursts of shrapnel. The 5th Cavalry 
Brigade covered the ground on the left of the Guards 
from Vellereille le Sec westward, through Harmignies 
and Nouvelles, to Ciply, under similar ineffective shell- 
ing. There was no real pressure from the enemy on the 
rear guard. 

The main bodies of the divisions reached their destina- 
tions at Feignies, La Longueville and Bavai between 9 
and 10 P.M., with no further mishap than the loss of tools 
and other articles which had been unloaded by the regi- 
mental transport and could not be re-loaded in time. None 
the less, the men were extremely fatigued ; they had had 
little rest for over sixty hours ; the country was close and 
cramped, and the day had been exceedingly hot ; there had 
been constant deployments and much labour on entrench- 
ing — inseparable from a retreat — so that the men suffered 

1 They met at the cross-roads near Bonnet, Sir John French being 
there with Genera! Haig at the time. 

"^ As will be seen in the account of the German operations on the 24th, 
no orders were issued for pursuit in this part of the field till 8 a.m. 


greatly from weariness and want of sleep. Yet one bat- 24 Aug. 

talion commander records on this date : " We had marched ^^i'*- 

" 59 miles in the last 64 hours, beginning the march in 

" the middle of an entirely sleepless night and getting only 

" 8 hours altogether during the other two nights. Many 

" men could hardly put one leg before another, yet they all 

" marched in singing. The other battalions of the brigade 

" did not arrive till long after dark, but they also marched 

" in singing." 

The comparative ease with which the I. Corps was able Maps 3, g, 
to withdraw was far from reassuring, for it might indicate ^ '^• 
that the Germans intended to make a decisive turning 
effort further west, as, indeed, was their plan. Soon after 
6 A.M. an aeroplane, which had been sent out at dawn, 
brought information not calculated to diminish the anxiety 
of the Commander-in-Chief : a column, from five to ten 
miles long, had been seen at 4.30 a.m. moving south from 
Leuze towards Peruwelz, having changed direction, at 
Leuze, off the road that runs westward from Ath to 
Tournai. This could hardly mean anything less than a 
German division, ^ and its line of march from Peruwelz to 
Conde would carry it to the west of the extreme western 
flank of the British Army. Nothing, however, was known 
of this at 4 a.m. at the commencement of the British 
retreat, and the first movements of the II. Corps were 
naturally made in complete ignorance of it. General 
Smith-Dorrien, in pursuance of the Commander-in-Chief's 
original orders, had made his dispositions before dawn to 
withstand another German attack on the ground on which 
his corps had spent the night. These dispositions proved 
of advantage for gaining time when the instructions to 
retire arrived ; for, before the II. Corps could retreat, it 
was imperative that the roads should be cleared of all 
transport and impedimenta, and the orders to that effect 
did not filter down to the brigades of the 3rd Division 
before 4.30 a.m. Meanwhile, before dawn, the Germans 
had already opened a heavy bombardment against the 
right of the II. Corps ; within an hour the fire extended 
westwards along the whole length of the line, and by 
5.15 a.m. a general infantry attack was rapidly developing. 
At 5.30 A.M. the commander of the 3rd Division became 
aware that the main body of the I. Corps was retiring, and 
sent a staff officer to reconnoitre a second position further 
to the south. Half an hour later he despatched orders to 
1 It was the II. Corps (see " Mons," Sketch 2). 

100 MONS 

the 8th Brigade, the right of his line, to withdraw from 

Beyond the shelhng, which did no damage, the 8th 
Brigade had been Httle troubled ; the German infantry 
did not show itself at all ; and at 8 a.m. the brigade began 
its march southward upon Genly. The 7th Brigade about 
Ciply, and the 9th Brigade at Frameries, when they began 
to move in their turn, did not escape quite so easily. The 
Germans were evidently bent upon holding them to their 
ground for a time, and about 6 a.m. launched their infantry 
in dense waves to the attack. They were thrown back with 
heavy loss, the 109th Battery finding excellent targets in 
the masses of the enemy visible behind the front line. 
Having thus cleared the air, about 9 a.m. the 9th Brigade 
fell back, in perfect order, through the town of Frameries, 
where there was some sharp fighting before the troops got 
clear of the streets, and marched southward upon Sars la 
Bruyere. The 7th Brigade held on for a little longer, and 
the South Lancashire were enfiladed by machine guns from 
the slag-heaps about Frameries, and lost between two and 
three hundred men before this brigade also was with- 

^ The following message from the II. Corps to the 5th Division gives a 
good idea of the situation about 7 a.m. : 

To 5th Division. From II. Corps. 

G. 313. 24th [August 1914]. 

First Corps are retiring from the line Peissant — Haulchin — Har- 
mignies to positions at Villers Sire Nicole and Quevy le Petit aaa Sixth 
Infantry Brigade moving to position about cross roads one mile west of 
Harveng aaa All these positions are to cover retirement of Third Division 
when that becomes necessary aaa Fifth Cavalry Brigade to Harveng 
with detachment and battery at Harmignies aaa Third Division right 
flank will probably fall back to Harveng early aaa When Third Division 
is forced to retire or ordered to retire it will take up position about Sars la 
Bruyere aaa Your retirement will have to be more or less simultaneous 
and you should at once send to reconnoitre a position if possible about 
Blaugies and Montignies sur Roc or where you can find it aaa Your roads 
of retirement will be those described to Colonel Romer [General Staff of 
5th Division] and in addition that through Blaugies and Erquennes to 
Hergies but not through second I of Pissotiau [that is west of the Blaugies 
— Erquennes — Hergies road] which belongs to Third Division aaa If 
you feel yourself sufficiently strong where you are you might send a brigade 
or less back to your next position to prepare it aaa We cannot tell when 
Third Division will have to retire to Sars la Bruyere but hope that it will 
at least not be for two or three hours. 

G. F. W. [Forestier-Walker], 

7.15 A.M. 

Copy handed to Col. Maurice [G.S. 3rd Division]. 
One by tel. 
One by officer. 


drawn towards Genly. The Germans made no attempt 2-1 Aug. 
to press them ; indeed, they handled the 3rd Division on i^^"*- 
this day with singular respect. The division had, in fact, 
though it was not appreciated at the time, inflicted on 
them very heavy losses. 

It was in the section immediately to the west of Maps 6 
Frameries that serious fighting was first experienced. The ^ '^* 
right of the 5th Division at Paturages, in the midst of the 
sea of mining cottages, was held by three battalions of the 
5th Brigade, and one, the Bedfordshire, of the 15th. The 
German guns opened a bombardment before dawn, and 
continued it steadily for some four hours, though to little 
purpose. The enemy infantry meanwhile fell upon a com- 
pany of the Bedfordshire near Paturages, and a very lively 
fight followed without definite result. Meanwhile, further 
to the west, the Dorsetshire (15th Brigade, but detached 
with the 13th) were well entrenched along the railway to 
the north-west of Wasmes, with two guns of the 121st 
Battery dug in near their extreme left.^ Still further to 
the left, in the 13th Brigade, the 2/K.O.Y.L.I. was coming 
into position with the 37th Howitzer Battery level with it. 
The 2/Duke of Wellington's, which was shortly to relieve 
the 1 /Dorset, and the 1/R. West Kent were in Wasmes ; 
the 2/K.O.S.B. was on the left at Champ des Sarts. The 
1 /Norfolk and 1 /Cheshire of the 15th Infantry Brigade, 
together with the 119th Battery, were ordered to Dour 
(two miles south-west) as divisional reserve. The XXVII. 
Brigade R.F.A. (less the 119th Battery) was about Champ 
des Sarts ; the VIII. Howitzer Brigade (less the 37th 
Battery) to the right and in advance of it ; and the 
XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A. was to the left of it, to the north 
of Dour. 

In this sector of the line the enemy began operations 
at dawn by bombarding the northern edge of St. Ghislain 
for two hours, after which he pushed his patrols forward 
and ascertained that the place had been evacuated by the 
British. 2 The infantry ^ then crossed the canal by some 
of the foot-bridges still left standing, and a battalion and 
a half, hastening through the deserted streets, deployed 

^ The trenches alongside them were never occupied, so that the guns 
were completely eti Vair. 

" Writing of the advance through St, Ghislain on the 24th, Hauptmann 
Bloem (p. 153) writes : " Truly, our artillery shot famously this night and 
this morning " ; and he says that the town looked " as if it had been 
visited by a whirlwind." 

* 5th Division. 

102 MONS 

from the southern edge of Hornu, the next village, opposite 
Champ des Sarts. The two advanced guns of the 121st 
Battery, which had opened fire, were quickly compelled 
to retire by the enemy's machine guns ; but the Dorset 
and the 37th Battery brought the German advance to an 
abrupt standstill with considerable loss. 

At 9 A.M. the three battalions of the 5th Brigade on 
the right of the 5th Division at Paturages, in accordance 
with their orders from the I. Corps, began to withdraw 
by Culot and Eugies southward upon Sars la Bruyere. 
Roused at 4 a.m. the Worcestershire and the H.L.I, had 
dug in on the front line, whilst the Oxfordshire L.I. en- 
trenched a position in rear to cover retirement. Though 
under shell fire no German infantry had attempted to close 
with them, but their retirement at once brought trouble upon 
the denuded right flank of the 5th Division, where stood the 
Bedfordshire. A detachment of the Dorset filled the vacant 
place for the moment, and the resistance was for the time 
maintained ; for the Germans were evidently less con- 
cerned to drive the British back than to hold them to their 

None the less, they were not content to be checked at 
the exits of Hornu. Again and again they tried to de- 
bouch, but without success, the 37th Battery working great 
havoc among them. It seems that the Germans must have 
lost heavily, for the Brandenburg Grenadiers, though ex- 
hausted and thinned by the engagement of the previous 
day, were hastily called up to reinforce the firing line.^ 
Meanwhile, the German artillery had for some time been 
shelling Wasmes furiously, causing some loss in the 13th 
Brigade both to the Duke's and to the West Kent ; but 
the former, as already related, was withdrawn to relieve 
the Dorset, and shortly afterwards two companies of the 
West Kent were also shifted eastwards to fill a gap between 
the Duke's and the K.O.Y.L.I. The German guns then 
turned with fury upon the British batteries, and the 

^ Of the approach to Hornu, Hauptmann Bloem says (p. 156) that his 
battahon was fired on by gun and rifles whilst it was in column of march, 
and the regimental adjutant brought him the order : " The 52nd in front 
are heavily engaged and require reinforcement at any cost. Haste is 
imperative." Bloem cannot believe his observer when he reports " Herr 
Hauptmann, the enemy is retiring." " What — what do you say — the 
enemy is retiring. You mean he is advancing." ..." In the thick 
masses everybody rushes forward. Grenadiers and Fusiliers, men of all 
companies mixed up . . . we jump into the English trenches. . . . 
Suddenly something awful happens." They were heavily shelled by 
their own artillery. 


XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. at Champ des Sarts was com- 24 Aug. 
pelled to shift its ground. But here, once again, the enemy ^^^'*- 
did not seriously press the attack of his infantry. 

On the front of the 14th Brigade, on the left of the 
13th, all was quiet. Still further to the west, the 19th 
Brigade had received orders from G.H.Q. at midnight to 
fall back to Elouges, six miles south-east, and at 2 a.m. it 
began its march upon that village by Hensies and Quie- 
vrain. At the same hour, the French 84th Territorial 
Division evacuated Conde and commenced its retirement 
towards Cambrai. At dawn the Cavalry Division, which 
was in rear of the left, began to move : General Allenby, 
finding that the Germans were in great strength on his 
left, decided to withdraw some distance, and sent a message 
to Sir Charles Fergusson to that effect ; but, on hearing 
from him that the 5th Division was to hold its ground, 
agreed to cover its left flank. A squadron of the 9th Map 8. 
Lancers, feeling its way forward to Thulin, the left of the 
II. Corps, found the enemy at the northern edge of the 
town and engaged him. Meanwhile, the 2nd Cavalry 
Brigade (Br. -General H. de B. de Lisle) had taken up a 
position south of the main highway to Valenciennes and 
astride the road from Thulin to Elouges ; the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade (Br.-General C. J. Briggs) was on the railway to its 
left ; the 3rd (Br.-General H. de la P. Gough) to the left 
rear of the 1st near a sugar factory about a thousand yards 
south-east of Quievrain, and the 4th (Br.-General Hon. C. 
Bingham) at Sebourg, about five miles further south. 
There they remained until the 19th Brigade had been with- 
drawn, when it came under General Allenby' s command 
and was halted at Baisieux, two miles south-west of 
Elouges, to the vicinity of which the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
also retired. Meanwhile, the advanced squadron of the 
9th Lancers was delaying the march of the Germans 
from Thulin, and inflicting some loss upon them, though 
all the time falling back upon its main body. About 
6 A.M. German guns opened fire upon that main body from 
the neighbourhood of Thulin, and about 7 a.m. German 
infantry and artillery — of the 7th Division of the IV. 
Corps — were seen moving westward along the highway to 
Valenciennes. One party turning southward, came down 
the road towards Elouges in column of route, and, after 
suffering severely from the rifles of the 18th Hussars and 
9th Lancers upon either side of it, deployed and advanced 
upon a wide front. 

104 MONS 

Thereupon, General Allenby, ordering the road Elouges 
— Audregnies — Angre — Roisin (five miles south of Elouges) 
to be left open for the retreat of the 5th Division, about 
9 A.M. began to withdraw his troops slowly southward. 
Though he had sent three officers, one of them in a motor 
car, to ascertain whether the 5th Division had begun its 
retirement, not one of these messengers had yet returned. 
Accordingly, he made his dispositions for retreat with due 
precautions for the safety of the left flank of the Army. 
The 19th Brigade was directed to fall back and take up a 
position at Rombies (three miles south-west of Baisieux 
and about seven south of Conde), and then the Cavalry 
Division began to withdraw, by successive brigades, in 
the same direction. In order to delay the enemy's advance 
to the utmost, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, which formed the 
rear guard, utilized the sunken roads, mineral railways 
and slag-heaps which crossed and dotted the ground 
between the Mons — Valenciennes road on the north and the 
villages of Elouges and Audregnies on the south. It was 
supported by L Battery R.H.A., which was in position in 
the middle of the area behind the railway between Elouges 
and Quievrain. The brigade was very heavily shelled as 
it retired, but fortunately little harm was done, and here 
also there was no real pressure from the enemy. By 11.30 
A.M. the very last parties had come in, and the 2nd Cavalry 
Brigade was moving through Audregnies upon Angre, the 
18th Hussars bringing up the rear. 
Maps 6 So much for the first moves of the great retreat. The 
^ '^' succeeding hours of the 24th August likewise passed with- 
out serious trouble on the right of the Army. General 
Home's rear guard had, as related, taken up a position on 
a front of three miles facing north-east, with its right on 
the road from Mons to Maubeuge, about a mile north of 
Bonnet, its left near Genly. About 10.30 a.m. the 8th 
Brigade came in on its western flank. The 7th Brigade, 
assembling at Genly from Ciply and Nouvelles, passed 
through the 8th on its way to Blaregnies, where it — or, 
at any rate, some part of it — halted and faced about. 
About 11 A.M. the 5th Brigade ^ likewise joined the 8th 
on the western side, forming up in depth from Eugies to 
Sars la Bruyere. The 9th Brigade made its way, as indeed 
from the direction of the roads was inevitable, to the same 

^ That is to say, the three battahons which had been at Paturages. 
The remaining battalion (2/Connaught Rangers) was with the 4th (Guards) 

THE 5th division 


point ; there the 3rd Division, together with General 24 Aug. 
Home's rear guard, waited until far into the afternoon. 1914. 
There was no pressure whatever upon them. Indeed, at 
11 A.M. General Home reported that the special responsi- 
bility of his rear guard was at an end, and that he proposed 
to return his troops to their divisions. But, soon after 
1 P.M., a message came in to I. Corps headquarters from 
the II. Corps that the retreat of the 5th Division on the 
left was delayed, and that meanwhile the 3rd Division 
would stand fast. Sir Douglas Haig directed his rear 
guard to conform with the movements of the 3rd Division ; 
it accordingly remained in its position, little troubled or 
threatened, but stationary. 

The retirement of the 5th Division had been delayed Maps 6 
by the fact that it had to be carried out in the close pre- & 7. 
sence of the enemy. The Dorsetshire and Bedfordshire 
had been left at Paturages covering the right of the 13th 
Brigade, which was engaging the enemy issuing from the 
southern exits of Hornu. After the withdrawal of the 5th 
Brigade on their right, it was evident that these two bat- 
talions could not maintain themselves in such a position 
for long, and at 10.30 a.m. Br.-General Count Gleichen 
began the somewhat awkward operation of withdrawing 
them westward through Paturages. It was none too soon. 
The first line transport of the Dorsetshire, retiring by La 
Bouverie on its way to Blaugies, six miles north of Bavai, 
was caught in an ambush by the Germans,^ but managed 
to extricate itself with little loss; then at 11 a.m. the Bed- 
fordshire on the right (south of the railway line from 
Wasmes to Frameries), and the Dorsetshire on the left 
began their movement south-west across the rear of the 
13th Brigade, towards Petit Wasmes and Warquignies. 
They had some sharp fighting, in which British marksman- 
ship seems to have told its usual tale, before they could 
clear themselves from the streets. Part of the Bedford- 
shire, acting as escort to the divisional artillery, struck due 
south from Warquignies, and made its way to St. Waast 
les Bavay ; ^ the remainder marched to Athis, west of 
Blaugies, and the bulk of the Dorsetshire to Blaugies itself, 
where both halted, the time being about 2 p.m. 

About 11 a.m.. Sir Charles Fergusson had received a 
message from the II. Corps, giving him discretion to fall 

^ Part of the 20th Regiment of the 6th Division, it appears, had pressed 
on (see " Mens "), between Frameries and Paturages. 

^ On some maps St. Waast la Vallee, two miles west of Bavai. 

106 MONS 

back as soon as the troops on his right had retired ; finding 
that they had already gone and that the enemy was 
working round his right flank, he proceeded to follow their 
example. The 13th Brigade was holding its own with no 
great difficulty, though the enemy was shelling the 2/Duke 
of Wellington's on the right and inflicting consider- 
able loss ; he was however doing little mischief to the 
2/K.O.Y.L.I., and still refrained from any serious infantry 
attack. The 14th Brigade, on the left of the 13th, re- 
mained in comparative quiet, the 2/Manchester, part of 
which had been moved up to the left of the K.O.Y.L.I., 
alone being under heavy artillery fire. This brigade began 
the withdrawal by successive battalions, and formed up 
at Blaugies to cover the retreat of the 13th Brigade. The 
latter then fell back. The VIII. Howitzer Brigade with- 
drew at once ; the XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A. left a section 
of each battery behind to support the infantry rear guards. 
The operations seem to have proceeded with little or no 
interference from the German infantry. One enemy 
battery did, indeed, come into action in the open at three 
thousand yards' range, but was quickly silenced. Only in 
one quarter does the German infantry appear to have 
advanced in earnest. By some mishap, the order to 
retreat did not reach the 2/Duke's, which accordingly 
remained in position, with a battery of the XXVII. Brigade 
R.F.A. close to it. About 11.30 a.m., exactly the time 
when the order should have affected the Duke's, the 
Germans suddenly concentrated very heavy fire upon this 
battery from guns which they had brought up to close 
range. A sharp fight followed during the next hour and a 
half, and it was only the rifles of the infantry that saved the 
British battery. About 1 p.m. the Germans debouched in 
thick skirmishing formation followed by dense masses from 
the Boussu — Quievrain road on the left front of the British 
battalion, but were greeted by such a rain of bullets from 
rifles and machine guns at 800 yards, and such a salute 
from the battery, that they stopped dead. Under cover of 
this final stroke, the guns limbered up and the battalion 
withdrew south-west into Dour. The Duke's had suffered 
heavily, their casualties reaching nearly four hundred 
of all ranks, but they had driven back six battalions.^ 
By 2 P.M. the 13th and 14th Brigades were assembled at 
Warquignies and Blaugies, respectively, ready to continue 

^ 66th and 26th Regiments of the 7th Division (see " Mons," Sketch 5). 
A German infantry regiment contained three battaUons. 


their retreat to their places in the new position : St. 24 Aug. 
Waast (2 miles west of Bavai) and Eth (4 miles west and a ^^^'** 
little north of St. Waast). 

But the 5th Division was not destined to march so far Map 8. 
to the south-west as Eth. Hardly had the 13th and 14th 
Brigades begun their retreat, when Sir Charles Fergusson 
became aware that the withdrawal of the cavalry and 19th 
Brigade had been premature, and that his left flank was 
seriously threatened by German forces of considerable 
strength advancing due south between Thulin and Conde.^ 
At 11.45 A.M. he sent an urgent message to the Cavalry 
Division to come to his assistance, and at the same time 
placed the 1 /Norfolk and 1 /Cheshire, together with the 
119th Battery, all of which were still in reserve near 
divisional headquarters at Dour, under the command of 
Lieut. -Colonel C. R. Ballard of the Norfolk Regiment. 
The first orders given to this officer were to advance north 
and counter-attack. Accordingly, he moved his troops 
northward for half a mile till a staff officer came up and 
directed them to be moved westward into position along 
the Elouges — Audregnies — Angre road, down which, as 
we have seen, the rear guard of the Cavalry Division had 
already retired. Thither, accordingly, they marched. 
General Allenby had received General Fergusson's message 
about noon, and responded instantly by sending back the 
2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades to the vicinity of Audregnies, 
which brought them within a couple of miles of Colonel 
Ballard. The 18th Hussars, who had just quitted their 
position of the forenoon, returned ; L Battery came up 
next at a rapid trot, and halted just to the west of Elouges ; 
whilst the 9th Lancers formed up by the road immediately 
to north of that village, with the 4th Dragoon Guards in 
rear. Simultaneously, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, which 
was nearing Rombies, faced about and, hastening back, 
occupied a position on the ridge immediately west of Au- 

The scene of action was an irregular parallelogram, 
bounded on the north by the great highway from Mons to 
Valenciennes, on the east by the Elouges rivulet, on the 
south by the road from Elouges to Audregnies, and on the 
west by the valley of the Honnelle : a space, roughly 
speaking, about three thousand yards from north to south, 
by five thousand from east to west. From south to north 
the ground forms a perfect natural glacis, at this time 

1 The whole IV. Corps. 

108 MONS 

covered with corn-stooks. Across the parallelogram runs 
the railway from Elouges to Quievrain, for the most part 
sunk in cutting and bordered upon each side by a quickset 
hedge. About a thousand yards to the south, a mineral 
railway runs parallel with it for about half its length, and 
then comes to an abrupt end in a group of cottages. More 
or less parallel to the Honnelle, the old Roman road, 
famous under the name of the Chaussee Brunehaut, runs 
straight as an arrow north-west from Audregnies, cutting 
the great highway about a thousand yards east of Quievrain. 
Upon this road, about a mile and a quarter north of Au- 
dregnies, stood a sugar-factory, and, immediately to the 
east of it, a cluster of high slag-heaps. 

It was now about 12.30 p.m. Colonel Ballard's force 
was just taking up its ground, facing nearly west, the 
Norfolk with their right resting on the railway from 
Elouges to Quievrain, and the Cheshire on their left, 
carrying the line to the northern outskirts of Audregnies, 
and securing touch with the cavalry. All had, so far, been 
comparatively quiet, when a sudden burst of fire, both of 
guns and rifles, from the north-west, gave warning that the 
Germans were opening their attack. It developed in 
two distinct parts, one from Quievrain, the other from the 
Bois de Deduit and Baisieux south-east upon Audregnies. 
Br.-General de Lisle (2nd Cavalry Brigade), galloping to the 
9th Lancers, instructed the commanding officer to deliver, 
if necessary, a mounted attack northwards in order to take 
the German advance in flank ; whilst L Battery, finding 
no suitable forward position near, w^heeled about and 
galloped south, coming into action behind the railway just 
to the east of Audregnies. 

Lieut. -Colonel D. G. M. Campbell ordered the 9th 
Lancers to advance, which they did at the gallop in column 
of squadrons, with two troops of the 4th Dragoon Guards 
echeloned to their left rear. Crossing the sunken road 
from Baisieux to Elouges at a point where it ran level with 
the ground, they galloped on, speared a couple of German 
scouts near the road, and caught sight of a few more taking 
cover among the corn-stooks ; then, their advance checked 
by the fire of nine batteries, they hesitated. Some dis- 
mounted by the sugar-factory, others swept round to the 
right and back towards Audregnies, and a great number, 
retiring along the mineral railway towards Elouges, rallied 
there upon the 18th Hussars. Simultaneously, a squadron 
of the 4th Dragoon Guards galloped down a narrow lane 


towards Baisieux, in order to seize a house at the end of it, 24 Aug. 
and thus cover a further advance upon Quievrain. On its ^^i^* 
way the squadron was shattered by heavy fire of rifles and 
shrapnel and, thoug^h the cottage was eventually reached 
and held, the effort led to no result. 

The advance of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade seems to have 
produced some moral effect in delaying the progress of the 
German attack, and so gained time for Colonel Ballard's 
flank guard to settle down, not, indeed, in entrenchments — 
for there was not a moment to spare for digging — but in 
fair natural cover. Probably it made matters easier also 
for the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, which was now in position 
further south about Angre, supported by the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade and covered by the guns of D and E Batteries in 
rear, with its machine guns firing down the valley on 
Baisieux. About 12.45 p.m. the action became serious, with 
obvious signs of an enveloping movement. The Germans 
had at least seven batteries in action about a mile north 
of the Valenciennes road towards the hamlet of La Croix, 
and, under the protection of their shells, the main body of 
their infantry — apparently a division of the I V. Corps ^ — 
closed up on the advanced guards and strove to carry 
them further. Solid masses emerged from Quievrain 
and from a small wood at its north-eastern corner, and 
dense columns came streaming down the three broad rides 
which led from the Bois de Deduit, midway between 
Quievrain and Baisieux, into the open. L Battery now had 
the chance for which every gunner prays ; no sooner did 
the Germans show themselves than it opened upon them 
with shrapnel, bursting its shells low, with an accuracy 
which literally mowed down the advancing masses. In 
vain they ran back to cover, rallied and endeavoured to 
press forward. In vain four German batteries, three firing 
shrapnel and one high explosive, strove to silence the ex- 
asperating guns which had arrested the progress of the 
infantry. Their shrapnel burst high and scattered harm- 
less bullets, while their high-explosive, with the exception 
of one shell which caused ten casualties, fell wide. L 
Battery was not to be silenced, and forbade, under heavy 
penalty, any hostile advance from Quievrain. 

Colonel Ballard's infantry, likewise, with a perfect 
natural glacis before it, seemed secure ; the 119th Battery, 
which was in position south of Elouges, not less so. The 

^ All four regiments, twelve battalions, of the 8th Division were 
engaged (" Mons "). 

110 MONS 

fire of the German artillery was heavy, but its shell, for 
the most part, went over. The 119th Battery answered 
the German guns with considerable effect, the Norfolks 
found excellent targets in the German infantry, who 
strove to swarm out of Quievrain, while the Cheshire 
brought both rifles and machine guns to bear with great 
execution upon the masses which were endeavouring to 
debouch from the Bois de Deduit. The 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade, which was spared all artillery fire, likewise held 
its own successfully south of the infantry, before Baisieux, 
and, with the help of D and E Batteries, effectually barred 
the way against the Germans at that point. The baffled 
enemy then tried a movement still further to the south 
by Marchipont, but was stopped by the 5th Dragoon 
Guards, who had come up, from the 1st Cavalry Brigade, 
on the left of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Everywhere the 
Germans were checked. The first of Kluck's enveloping 
movements had been, in fact, completely and victoriously 

There were, however, disquieting signs of a still wider 
turning movement further to the west about Quarouble 
(three miles south-west of Quievrain), where a mass of 
German infantry, thought to be the flank guard of an 
army corps,^ could be seen moving steadily to the south. 
Accordingly, shortly after (about 2.30 p.m.) Colonel Ballard 
gave the order to retire. 
Maps 3 About the same hour the troops to the eastward were 
^ 6- also set in motion to resume the retreat. The 3rd Division 
marched from Genly — Sars la Bruyere for Bavai en route 
for the villages to the south-west of that town ; General 
Home's rear guard, on its right, moved last of all, not 
until about 4.30 p.m. The main body of the 5th Division 
struck south from Blaugies through Athis upon Bavai and 
St, Waast, its place in the selected position ; the Cavalry 
Division also prepared to withdraw, the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade moving up to Onnezies to cover the first rearward 
Map 8. bound of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to Angre. Meanwhile, 
the effect of the advance of the Germans ^ to the east of 
Colonel Ballard's flank guard was beginning to be felt, 
and the 119th Battery, between the fire of the three 
German batteries, and of a machine gun at much closer 
range, was suffering considerably. One section, the first 
that had come into action, fired at the hostile infantry 

* Actually the three battalions of the 36th Regiment of the IV. Corps. 
* The 7th Division of the IV. Corps, 


until it was within eight hundred yards, and then with- 24 Aug. 
drew. The four remaining guns were brought off by the ^^^'*- 
battery commander, Major E. W. Alexander, one at a time, 
with the help of a party of the 9th Lancers.^ The Norfolk 
then fell back in two parties under a continuous hail of 
shrapnel bullets, leaving a hundred of their wounded 
behind them at Elouges. Most unfortunately, both the 
second in command and the adjutant were wounded at 
this critical moment, and thus one platoon in an advanced 
position received no orders to retire. 

Colonel Ballard sent to the Cheshire three separate 
messages to fall back, not one of which reached them. 
The major of L Battery also did not receive orders, but 
seeing no sign of the Norfolk and having fired away nearly 
the whole of his ammunition, was meditating withdrawal 
when the brigade-major of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade arrived 
and directed him to bring his battery out of action. The 
guns were thereupon run down close under the screen of 
the railway hedge ; the limbers were brought up one by 
one at a gallop from Audregnies ; and the battery limbered 
up and got away without further mishap. The party of 
the 4th Dragoon Guards in the house by the lane then 
retired also ; and they, together with L Battery and the 
main body of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, moved off south- 
westward upon Ruesnes. The Cavalry Division had mean- 
while fallen back towards St. Waast and Wargnies, the 
4th Cavalry Brigade being further to the west between 
Saultain and Jenlain. 

The Cheshire, together with a small party of the Norfolk, 
were thus left alone. Lieut. -Colonel D. C. Boger, command- 
ing the former, was unaware of the general retreat of the 
force, so that he was at a loss to know what was expected 
of him. The Germans were now pressing forward rapidly 
upon both flanks, and about 4 p.m., while making disposi- 
tions to meet the movement, he was disabled by three 
wounds. Shortly before this, part of the reserve company 
of the Cheshire at Audregnies had been ordered by a staff 
officer to fall back, and, after vainly striving to rejoin the 
fighting line — which was rightly forbidden — made its way 
to Athis. As the Germans came closer, the main body 

1 Major Alexander received the V.C. for " handling his battery against 
" overwhelming odds with such conspicuous success that all his guns were 
" saved, notwithstanding that they had to be withdrawn by hand by him- 
" self and three other men." Captain Francis Grenfell, 9th Lancers, also 
received the V.C. on this day for gallantry in action and for assisting to 
save the guns of the 119th Battery. 

112 MONS 

of the Cheshire fell back to the Audregnies road, where they 
were fired on by two machine guns placed in a dip in the 
ground, a couple of hundred yards away. These were 
promptly silenced by the machine guns of the Cheshire, 
and a little party of men charged forward with the bayonet 
to dislodge the enemy from this point of vantage. The 
Germans turned at the sight of them, and during this short 
respite the opportunity was taken to draw off a small part 
of the battalion across country to Audregnies wood, which 
they reached under heavy fire, thence making their way 
to Athis. But the Germans, seeing how few were their 
assailants, returned to the attack, and there was nothing 
left for the remainder of the Cheshire, mere handful though 
they were, but to fight to the last. They still had ammuni- 
tion and could keep up rapid fire, and, by this time separ- 
ated into at least three groups, they continued to defend 
themselves desperately until nearly 7 p.m. Then at last, 
surrounded and overwhelmed on all sides, they laid down 
their arms. Of the main body on the Audregnies road, 
only forty remained unwounded. Their captors were the 
72nd Regiment, belonging to the German IV. Corps. 

The troubles of the small parties which had escaped 
were not ended on the battlefield. The enemy broke in 
from Dour during their retreat, and cut off a few men, 
and at Athis only one hundred could be assembled. The 
indefatigable gunners of the 5th Division artillery came into 
action along the line Blaugies — Athis — Montignies, and 
again further to the south at Houdain, and this enabled 
the survivors of the flank guard to reach their bivouac at 
St. Waast at 9 p.m., utterly worn by hunger, fatigue and 
hard fighting, but still unvanquished. They had held off 
from the main body of the 5th Division the pursuit of a 
whole German corps, but at heavy cost. The 119th 
Battery had lost thirty officers and men ; the Norfolk 
over two hundred and fifty officers and men ; whilst of the 
Cheshire, who in the morning had mustered nearly a 
thousand, only two officers and two hundred men answered 
their names at St. Waast. 

The total losses on the 24th August were greater than 
on the 23rd, and amounted to roughly 250 in the Cavalry 
Division, 100 in the I. Corps, 550 in the 3rd Division, 
1650 in the 5th Division and 40 in the 19th Infantry 

Thus ended the first day of the retreat. All circum- 
stances considered, although the casualties were consider- 


able, the operations had not been unsuccessful. The 24 Aug. 
5th Division had, indeed, been called upon not only to i^i*. 
defend six miles of front, but also, with the help of the 
cavalry and of the 19th Brigade, to parry Kluck's envelop- 
ing attack, and it had triumphantly accomplished its task. 
The flanking battalions to the east and west had, it is true, 
suffered much, but only one had been actually over- 
whelmed ; not a single gun had been lost ; and the enemy 
had been very severely punished. Our troops were still 
confident that, when on anything like equal terms, they 
were more than a match for their opponents ; the one 
trouble which really oppressed them was want of sleep. 
Long after nightfall the battalions of the 3rd Division were 
passing the cross roads in Bavai, the men stumbling along 
more like robots than living soldiers, unconscious of every- 
thing about them, but still moving under the magic impulse 
of discipline and regimental pride. Marching, they were 
hardly awake ; halted, whether sitting or standing, they 
were instantly asleep. Yet these men on the eastern flank 
of the corps had done little fighting and endured little press- 
ure during the day. Worse was it on the western flank, 
where cavalry and infantry had had hard fighting from 
dawn till dusk, and many a man had been for over twenty- 
four hours without sleep or food. And this, it must be 
borne in mind, was only the beginning of the retreat. 

The general disposition of the Army on the night of the sketches 
24th/25th, on a line east to west through Bavai, was : — A & 4. 

5th Cavalry Brigade . . . Feignies. & 13. 

I. Corps 

1st Division 

2nd Division . 

II. Corps : 

5th Division . 

3rd Division . 

Cavalry Division) 

19th Brigade / 

Feignies, La Longueville. 

Bavai, St. Waast. 

St. Waast, Amfroipret, 

St. Waast, Wargnies,^ 
Jenlain, Saultain. 

It will be observed that in the course of the day's march, 
the 3rd and 5th Divisions had changed places, the latter 
being now on the right and the former on the left of the 
11. Corps. This manoeuvre was intentional and carried 

^ The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was much broken up. Headquarters, with 
L Battery, | squadron of 4th Dragoon Guards, 1^ squadrons of 9th Lancers, 
and one squadron of 18th Hussars, were at Ruesnes. 


114 MONS 

out in accordance with orders issued for the purpose. The 
whole Army was inchning westward, in order to clear 
Maubeuge, and since the 3rd Division was able to begin 
its retirement considerably before the 5th, it could without 
difficulty proceed to the westward of Bavai, and thus 
shorten the retreat of the 5th Division by permitting it to 
fall back due south instead of south-west, and so to drop 
into its place on the right of the II. Corps. This move- 
ment not only eased the immediate task of the 5th Divi- 
sion, but relieved it from its difficult position upon the 
threatened western flank ; it was carried out without any 
collision, in fact without the divisions seeing each other. 


German Movements on the 24th August 1914 

3 The German accounts of the 24th August are somewhat meagre. 
Kluck (according to the German Official Account) ordered the 
" continuation of the attack " to begin at 4 a.m. : the //. Corps, 
which was deeply echeloned behind the right, to close up to the 
front line ; and the IV. Reserve Corps to push up behind the right 
flank. Both corps were to move at 1 a.m. and reach Conde and 
Ligne (west of Ath). The directions given to the other corps were : 
IX. Corps, right on Bavai ; ///. Corps, left on Bavai ; IV. on 
Wargnies le Grand (6 miles west of Bavai) and westwards. Marwitz's 
cavalry corps, moving on Courtrai, was, by Billow's orders, implored 
to turn south on Denain (25 miles west of Bavai) and cut off the 
retreat of the British. At 10.30 a.m. the cavalry corps was put 
under Kluck, and ordered to Valenciennes via Denain ; but it was 
delayed at Tournai by the action with French Territorial troops 
(which it had mistaken for British), and at night, after a 25-mile 
march, was still about 10 miles short of Denain. 

All that Kluck himself has to say about the day is : " After heavy 
" fighting, the leading troops reached a line (west to east) Onain — 
" Elouges — Dour — Genly — Harveng. The British force, estimated at 
" from two to three divisions, was driven back towards a line Curgies 
" — Bavai." He does not explain why his attempt at envelopment 
failed, why such a very short advance — only three and a half miles 
from the canal — was made, or why his corps halted in the middle 
of the afternoon. His staff officer, Kuhl,^ states frankly " the enemy 
" put up a lively resistance with rear guards so that we only ad- 
" vanced slowly." Kluck adds : " After the severe opposition 
" offered by the British Army in the two-days battle Mons — St. 
" Ghislain, a further and even stronger defence was to be expected 
" on the line Valenciennes — Bavai — Maubeuge," and he then quotes 
four pages from Sir John French's despatch. 

The German General Staff monograph, " Mons " gives a few 
details — some of which have been noticed in footnotes — and explains 
the absence of the IX. Corps from the fighting. The orders for its 

1 Kuhl's " Maine," p. 72. 


advance were not issued until about 8 a.m., and immediately after- 24 Aug. 
wards " an aviator brought news from which it appeared that the 1914. 
" enemy had left only weak infantry and artillerj^ on the line Ciply — 
" Nouvelles^Givry, that numerous small columns were in retreat 
" to the south and south-west, and that the enemy's artillery was 
" in lively action with our own. At 9 a.m. the enemy's fire ceased, 
" and the advancing infantry encountered no more resistance, as the 
" enemy had apparently marched off in great haste." 

Nothing therefore could have been more successful than the with- 
drawal of the I. Corps and 3rd Division. The heavy losses inflicted 
on the Germans on the 23rd had not been without important results. 

The sketch maps in the monograph show that in the German 
III. Corps the 6th Division attacked Frameries and Paturages, and 
the 5th Division Hornu and Boussu. Towards 5 p.m. this corps halted 
for the night. 

The German regimental accounts of the fighting at Frameries 
are so greatly to the credit of the British Expeditionary Force, that 
they are worth recording here. 

The attack on the Lincolnshire and South Lancashire was made 
by a whole German division — the 6th of the ///. Corps. There is 
a detailed story of the action by Captain von Brandis of the 24fh 
(Brandenburg) Regiment.^ He says : — 

" Our artillery is to prepare the assault. ... A continuous 
" stream of gun and howitzer shell thunders out, hurtling and 
" howling over our heads, and bursting in dust and smoke on the 
" edge of the village [Frameries]. No human beings could possibly 
" live there. At 7 a.m. six companies of the regiment advance to 
" the attack. We remain impatiently in reserve. ... If we thought 
" that the English had been shelled enough to be storm-ripe, we were 
" fairly mistaken. They met us with well-aimed fire." 

His company was then sent up to reinforce. As it reached the 
firing line, the men shout " Vorwarts " expecting to carry it with 
them, but no one rose. " There were only dead and wounded to 
" be seen. Tommy seems to have waited for the moment of the 
" assault. He had carefully studied our training manuals, and 
" suddenly, when we were well in the open, he turned his machine 
" guns on." It was however only rapid rifle fire. The assault failing, 
the village was shelled again, and the attack renewed with larger 
forces. Eventually the Germans entered Frameries and found no 
defenders there. 

" Up to all the tricks of the trade from their experience of small 
" wars, the English veterans brilliantly understood how to slip off 
" at the last moment." Of the casualties he says : " Our battalion 
" alone lost three company commanders, and, besides, every second 
" officer and every third man." 

Captain Liebenow ^ of the 64th Regiment, of the same brigade 
as Brandis, states that his battalion at Frameries lost " the adjutant, 
" every fourth man and, of three companies, every lieutenant." 

Captain Heubner,^ of the 20th Regiment, states : " many of our 
" companies had hea\y losses in the attack on Frameries. ... As 
" on the previous day, the English again vanished w'ithout leaving 
" a trace (spurlos).'''' 

1 In his book " Die Stiirmer von Douaumont." 

* In a letter to " The Times Literary Supplement," 4tli September 1919. 

» In his book "Unter Emmich vor Luttich, Unter Kluck vor Paris." 

116 MONS 

In the IV. Corps, the 7th Division moved through Thuhn towards 
Elouges and the 8th, swinging westwards, came through Quievrain 
and QuievTechain towards Audregnies and Angre, and thus, as 
related, struck the 5th Division flank guard. Tliey halted in the 
afternoon : the 7th Division near Elouges and the 8th at Baisieux 
and northwards. No details of the fighting are given in the German 
account, but it is mentioned that the " British resistance was quickly 
" broken." This statement is not borne out by time and space : it 
is sufficient commentary on it to remark that through a long summer's 
day these two divisions made an average advance of only three 
Map 5. Kluck's orders for the 25th, issued at 8 p.m., were : " Enemy's 
•' main position is believed to be Bavai — ^Valenciennes. The First 
" Army will attack it with envelopment of the left flank, //. Cavalry 
" Corps against the enemy's rear." He " was of the opinion that 
" he had so far had only to deal with advanced portions of the British 
" Army — two or three divisions — which had now withdrawn on to 
" what was supposed to be their main position." ^ 


The Operations of the French Troops on the British 
Left between 20th and 24th August ^ 

Maps 2 G.Q.G. instructions to General d'Amade, who took up his head- 
& 3. quarters at Arras on 18th August 1914, were : "To establish a 
" barrier between Dunkerque and Maubeuge, in order to protect the 
" railway communications from possible raids by enemy cavalry." 
He was also to extend the inundations of the Scarpe, the Schelde 
and the Rhonelle by opening the canal sluices, and to occupy the 
old forts of Maulde, Flines, Curgies, Conde and Le Quesnoy. 

In accordance with these instructions General d'Amade, on the 
20th August, disposed his three Territorial divisions (" de campagne " 
— i.e. excluding the Territorial divisions " de place," such as tlie 
34th Territorial Division at Lille) as follows : — 

Map 5. 81st from the sea to the Lys ; 

82nd from the Lys to the Scarpe ; 
84th from the Scarpe to the Sambre. 

Map 3. The main line of defence for the 84th was : northern edge of Bois 
I'Eveque (north-east of Le Cateau) — Solesmes — Villers en Cauchies 
— Estrun — Sensee Canal ; its advanced line being Maubeuge — 
Mecquignies — Wargnies — Valenciennes — junction of Schelde and 

On the 22nd, on the advance of the British Army west of Mau- 
beuge, the 84th Division closed in on its left about Valenciennes, 
clearing the British front, and advanced to Conde. It then formed 
along the Schelde from Conde north-westwards to Maulde. 

On the night of the 22nd/23rd the 88th Territorial Division left 
Choisy le Roi, near Paris, in twenty-two trains, and detrained on 
the morning of the 23rd at Seclin and Templeuve, near Lille. It 

1 G.O.A., i. p. 430. * See F.O.A., 1. 


was then ordered to march at once towards Cysoing (8 miles south- 23-24Aiig. 
east of Lille) and then to retake Tournai, which some German cavalry 1914. 
had entered on the 22nd.i The main body of the division reached Map 2. 
Cysoing early on the 24th, and at 9 a.m. was suddenly subjected to 
a heavy artillery fire (by Marwitz's cavalry corps) from about Tournai. 
As the division had no artillery, it eventually retired towards Tem- 
pleuve and Arras, after delaying the enemy some hours. 

After the German attack at Mons on the 23rd, General d'Amade Map 3. 
reconstructed his line. At 2 a.m. (24th) the 84th Division retired 
from Conde through Valenciennes towards Cambrai and Marquion. 
During the morning of the 24th, the rear guard of the division in 
position near Fresnes (two miles south of Conde) was attacked and 
badly shaken. On the 25th, as will be seen, the division, still on the 
left of the British, was attacked when near Haspres and became 

Lille was evacuated on the 24th by order of the Ministry of jyjap 2. 
War,^ and the 82nd Division took up the line La Bassee — Corbehem. 
The 81st Division conformed to this move and was allocated the 
area between Aire and the sea. Thus, a barrier between the British 
left and the sea was still maintained. 

1 This cavalry patrol left again within a few hours. 
2 For an account of this incident see General Percin's " Lille." 



The 25th August 

(Sketches A, 4 «& 6 ; Maps 2, 3, 9, 10 & 13) 

Sketch 4. After a visit to the I. Corps and to General Sordet at 
Map 3. Avesnes, Sir John French, on his return to G.H.Q. at Bavai 
in the afternoon of the 24th August, received further in- 
formation of the retreat of the French Third and Fourth 
Armies and of the continuation of the retirement of the 
Fifth. Valabregue's Group of two Reserve divisions, 
immediately to the right of the British, had fallen back 
south of Maubeuge.i The XVIII. Corps of the Fifth Army, 
next on the right, had been attacked early, and had fallen 
back in good order to a line from Solre le Chateau (about 
ten miles south-east of Maubeuge) south-eastward to 

As to the western flank, the Field-Marshal had been 
informed that two French Reserve divisions, the 61st and 
62nd (General Ebener's Group), had been sent from Paris 
to Arras to reinforce General d'Amade, who would thus 
have six divisions — some 80,000 men, without counting 
the garrison of Lille, 25,000 — to hold a line, some 70 miles 
long, through Douai, Bethune and Aire to the sea. What 
enemy forces were before d'Amade was still unknown ; 
but German troops — presumably part of the IV. Corps — 
had actually been seen marching south between Valen- 
Map 2. ciennes and Bavai, and the Flying Corps in the evening 
reported that a large column of two divisions, in all prob- 
ability the German //. Corps, moving west from Ath and 
Grammont, had wheeled southward at 10 a.m. at Laha- 
maide (5 miles north-west of Ath) and Ladeuze (4 miles 
south of Ath) ; also that at 4.40 p.m. one of these divisions 

1 For the movements of this group, the nearest French troops on the 
right of the B.E.F., see Note II. at end of Chapter. 



had halted at Ligne (3 miles west of Ath) to allow the 25 Aug. 
other to pass it. Cavalry was known to be as far west as i^i*. 
Tournai. The British Staff was informed that Cambrai 
had been entrenched, and would be held by the French, 
while to the west of Cambrai the strong line of the Sensee 
would be occupied. From the small numbers available 
and the nature of d'Amade's troops, it could not be hoped 
that they would keep off for very long any serious German 
pressure upon the British western flank. 

The British Commander-in-Chief judged from the 
method and direction of the German attacks on the 24th 
that Kluck was endeavouring not only to turn the left 
flank of the British force, but to press it back on to the 
old fortress of Maubeuge,^ which lay to its right rear, 
offering asylum just as Metz had presented its shelter to 
the French in 1870 during the battle of Gravelotte. Sir 
John French was not, however, inclined to be thus tempted, 
and, as the left of the French XVIII. Corps was already ten 
miles in rear of the British right, he decided to continue the 
retreat on the 25th some fifteen miles further, to a position 
in the neighbourhood of Le Cateau. 

The routes for this retirement of the British Force Map 3. 
presented some difficulty. Bavai is the crossing place of 
two ancient highways, the Chaussee Brunehaut, running 
from south-east to north-west, and another, known simply 
as the Roman road, running from south-west to north-east ; 
in the southern angle enclosed between them lies the Forest 
of Mormal. This was then a compact and well-cared- 
for block of woodland, mostly oak and beech, with an 
extreme length of nine miles and an average breadth of 
from three to four. On its western side the Roman road 
forms its boundary for some seven miles ; from east to 
west several fair roads, one main road and a railway cross 
it ; in addition, the Bavai — Pont sur Sambre and the 
Englefontaine — Landrecies roads run respectively just 
north and south of it ; but there is no road through it 
from north to south : the numerous forest tracks shown Map lo. 
on the map were narrow and unmetalled, or at best had 
only a thin laj^er of unrolled stones ; they had, however, 
proved good going for the divisional cavalry of the I. Corps 
in the march northwards. ^ With the uncorrected maps 

^ This was actually the case. Kluck's orders for the 24th ran : " The 
" attack is to be so carried out that the enemy will be thrown back on 
" Maubeuge and his retreat to the west cut off " (Kluck, p. 45). 

^ See page 04. 


then at the disposal of the British, a commander might well 
hesitate before involving his columns, with an enemy on 
their heels, in so large and blind a mass of trees. ^ Just east 
of the forest runs the Sambre, with many loops and wind- 
ings, with a general course south-west to north-east, but 
without, as might have been expected, a main road follow- 
ing the line of its valley : the Maubeuge — Leval — Lan- 
drecies road, the nearest to the river, was from half a mile 
to two miles east of it. Consequently, if the river were 
crossed (and circumstances dictated that it must be crossed 
by the I. Corps as close to Maubeuge as possible), it must be 
recrossed before that corps could be re-united with the II. 
The situation presented to the British Commander-in- 
Chief was, through the mere accident of topography, most 
embarrassing. To pass the whole of his Army to the west 
of the forest would mean, practically, a flank march across 
the front of an enemy greatly superior in numbers and 
already threatening his western flank ; to pass entirely to 
the east of it was impossible owing to the proximity of 
the French. Sir Douglas Haig was communicated with 
on the subject of avoiding the forest, and at 5.45 p.m. on 
the 24th he wrote to the Commander-in-Chief that he 
would be able to march at 5 a.m. on the 25th along the 
roads near the Sambre, and therefore could leave the 
Roman road to the II. Corps. He added that his march 
would bring the head of his corps as far as Landrecies. 

The Commander-in-Chief decided therefore to divide 
the British Force, and send the I. Corps east and the II. 
Corps west of the forest, and at 8.25 p.m. he issued orders 
for the retirement, with a notification that the exact 
^faps 3 positions to be occupied at Le Cateau would be pointed 
^ ^^- out on the ground. ^ The movement was to be com- 
menced so that all rear guards would be clear of the Bavai 
— Eth road by 5.30 a.m. on the 25th. In the G.H.Q. 
operation orders the Roman road, Bavai — Montay (just 
north-west of Le Cateau) was made the boundary between 
the I. and II. Corps and assigned to the II. Corps ; thus 
the I. Corps was responsible for the Forest of Mormal. 

^ The leading German corps avoided crossing the forest from north to 
south. The III. Corps sent advanced guards by two of the transverse 
roads from west to east to secure the eastern edge ; the IV. Corps also sent 
a column from west to east by the road south of the forest to Landrecies, 
as will be seen. The IX. Corps crossed it with infinite precautions by the 
main road from Berlaimont from east to west, two days after the battle 
of Le Cateau. The next corps to the east, the X. Reserve (at Etreux on the 
27th), with Richthofen's cavalry corps, moved well to the east of the forest. 

* Appendix 13. 





o -_ 



^ ^ 

^ 5 


&q i. 



^ f^i 


C5 ^ 

p^ 5- 



lO JU 




The various orders for moving the Force south-west- 25 Atig. 
wards may be summarized as follows : — i^^'** 

I. Corps : to move in two columns, and billet in villages on the 

1st Division : to cross the Sambre at Hautmont and proceed 

thence southward by Limont Fontaine, Ecuelin and 

Monceau to Dompierre and villages beyond. 
2nd Division : to cross the Sambre at Pont sur Sambre and 

Berlaimont, and billet in the area from Leval south-west 

to Landrecies. 
5th Cavalry Brigade (attached I. Corps) : to cover the above 

movements, follow the march of the 2nd Division and 

billet in the area from Leval northward to Bachant. 

II. Corps : to fall back west of the Forest of Mormal to the line 

Le Cateau — Caudry — Haucourt, by three roads. 
Cavalry Division (with 19th Brigade attached) : 

Two brigades, with II. Corps divisional cavalry attached, 
under a special commander, to cover the retreat of the 
II. Corps ; two brigades, with the 19th Brigade, under 
G.O.C. Cavalry Division, to guard the western flank. 

In the course of the 22nd/23rd the 4th Division, having 
been relieved of its duties on the east coast of Great 
Britain by Yeomanry mounted brigades, Territorial cyclists 
and other units, had crossed the Channel to the ports of 
Havre, Rouen and Boulogne, and by the 24th eleven 
battalions of infantry and one brigade of artillery, the 
bulk of the combatants, had arrived by train at Le Cateau 
and the neighbouring stations. They were ordered to 
move forward and occupy a position at Solesmes to assist 
the retirement of the II. Corps. Major-General T. D'O. 
Snow subsequently received orders to withdraw, when the 
time should come, to the left of the II. Corps on the Le 
Cateau position. 

In the right centre of the I. Corps the 5th Cavalry Maps 3 
Brigade, in the early hours of the 25th, took over the out- * i^. 
posts of the 2nd Division from La Longueville to Bavai, ^*^ * 
which had been attacked, though not in force. A troop 
was sent out eastwards to gain touch with the outposts of 
the 1st Division, and it ascertained that the French 53rd 
Reserve Division was retiring upon Hautmont, the very 
place selected for the 1st Division to cross the Sambre. 
From Feignies to Hautmont the 1st Division was confined 
to a single, narrow, high-banked, dusty road, and when 
the river had been passed at the allotted bridge the French 


53rd Reserve Division and part of the 69th shared with it 
the road from Hautmont to Dompierre and Marbaix.^ 
The weather was extremely hot, and the march, broken 
as it was by constant checks owing to the number of troops 
on the road, was greatly distressing to soldiers already 
much worn by fatigue and want of sleep. Otherwise the 
column was little disturbed, except by occasional bullets 
Map 9. from German patrols, and the division reached its billets, 
in a line of villages west of Avesnes : the 1st (Guards) 
Brigade at Dompierre, the 2nd at Marbaix, which was 
shared with the French 53rd Reserve Division, and the 
3rd at Le Grand Fayt. 

The 2nd Division, moving to Noyelles — Maroilles — 
Landrecies, south of the Forest of Mormal, on the west of 
the 1st, had a better road from La Longueville to its bridges 
at Berlaimont and Pont sur Sambre ; the rear guard, sup- 
plied by the 6th Brigade, was only followed by dismounted 
cavalry and but little pressed, although it also encountered 
trouble, for Maroilles was the supply re-filling point of the 
French 53rd and 69th Reserve Divisions ; and no one 
could tell the British Staff which roads the supply columns 
would use after re-filling. Moreover, the tail of General 
Sordet's cavalry corps was using the road from Maroilles 
to Landrecies on its way to Le Cateau, and this meant 
further congestion. However, the 4th (Guards) Brigade 
duly reached Landrecies about 4 p.m., and the 6th Brigade 
reached Maroilles about 6 p.m. ; the 5th was detained till 
evening to guard the passages of the Sambre from Pont 
sur Sambre to Sassegnies (west of Leval) until it could be 
relieved by French troops, and did not reach Noyelles till 

Sir Douglas Haig soon after 2 p.m had established his 
headquarters at Landrecies, where a message despatched 
from G.H.Q. soon after 3 p.m. reached him with the informa- 
tion that the II. Corps was occupying the Le Cateau position 
from Caudry to Inchy, including, temporarily, the I. Corps' 
part of Inchy, and asking him when he would be able to 

^ General Palat, in an article entitled " Le Marechal French et le 
General Lanrezac " in the " Anglo-French Review," November 1919, 
stated that the mistake was the I. Corps' and that it got on the roads 
assigned to the Reserve division ; but no allotment of roads as between the 
British and the French can be traced before a memorandum dated 10 a.m. 
on the 26th. F.O.A. does not mention the collisions. Similar mishaps as 
regards allotment of roads between Armies occurred on the German side, 
according to General Baumgarten-Crusius in his '" Marneschlacht," due to 
there being no intermediate commander between Supreme Headquarters 
and the Armies, as there was later on in the war. 


take his place in a defensive line, which had been partially 25 Aug. 
prepared by civil labour, from Inchy south-eastward to i^i'** 
St. Benin (If miles south of Le Cateau),^ His answer was 
urgently requested, since the orders for the 26th depended 
upon it. 

General Haig realized that the situation was serious, 
for, about noon, the Flying Corps had reported German 
columns to be closing on Bavai. Meantime, his chief 
General Staff officer, Br. -General J. E. Gough, had gone to 
G.H.Q. and returned with instructions, in accordance with 
which he ordered the march of the I. Corps to be resumed 
south-westwards at 2 a.m. on the 26th : that of the 1st 
Division to St. Martin (5 miles south of Le Cateau), the 
2nd to Bazuel (2 miles south-east of Le Cateau), the whole 
movement to be covered by the 5th Cavalry Brigade. 
Orders, issued at 7.30 p.m. by G.H.Q., were, however, 
received subsequently, and they directed that the retire- 
ment was to be continued a little further and that the I. 
Corps was to go on to Busigny (7 miles south-west of Le 
Cateau). The II. Corps (with the 19th Brigade), moving in 
echelon, was to fall back in the general direction of La 
Sabliere (a wood just south of Busigny) — Fremont — 
Beaurevois (3 miles east of Le Catelet). The 4th Division, 
on the left was to reach the area Beaurevoir— Le Catelet. ^ 
The reason of the change was that, in view of the reports 
received of the further retirement of the French on his 
right and of the strength of the enemy on his own immediate 
front, Sir John French had decided that he could not stand 
on the Le Cateau position, but must continue the retreat on 
St. Quentin and Noyon. 

The II. Corps had made every preparation for a very Maps 3 
early start on the 25th in its retirement south-west from & i^. 
Bavai to the Le Cateau position ; but owing to the passage ^^^*^" ^' 
of General Sordet's cavalry corps from east to west across 

^ Thus ran the message to the I. Corps. The front allotted to the 
II. Corps seems very narrow. But some other message must have been 
sent to the II. Corps • for the diary of the latter for the 25th reads, 4.30 p.m., 
" Halt orders issued [they are attached to the diary] for the occupation of 
" the portion of the defensive position allotted to the II. Corps : 

" 5th Division, Montay — Ruemont road (inc.) [this is the Roman 
" road, west of Le Cateau, the road which was the II. Corps boundary on 
" the 25th] to Troisvilles (inc.). 

" 3rd Division, Troisvilles — Audencourt — Caudry (inc.)." 

It was a wider and more suitable front than that mentioned in the 
G.H.Q. message to the I. Corps. 

- Appendix 14. 


its line of retreat, the roads to the south were blocked, 
and there was much difficulty in getting the whole of 
the transport into motion by midnight, the hour fixed in 
orders. The process was not, in fact, accomplished with- 
out the delay of a full hour, with the result that the fight- 
ing troops were also that much behind their time. The 
5th Division was allotted the Roman road, immediately 
west of the Forest of Mormal ; the 14th Brigade formed 
its rear guard. The 3rd Division was to march to the 
west of the 5th Division on two roads as follows : 

9th Brigade via Gommegnies (three miles north-east of 
Le Quesnoy) — Salesches — Vendegies au Bois ; 

8th Brigade via Wargnies le Petit — Le Quesnoy — Salesches — 
Viesly ; 

7th Brigade, general rear guard. 

The 19th Brigade and the Cavalry Division were to move 
still further west by Villers Pol, Ruesnes, Vertain, Romeries 
and Solesmes, thus passing a couple of miles west of Le 
Quesnoy ; their function was to cover the rear and protect 
the western flank of the II. Corps. 

It will be remembered that the 4th Division had been 
ordered to occupy a position in the vicinity of Solesmes to 
assist the retirement of the II. Corps, though not actually 
under its orders. The infantry and such of the artillery of the 
division as had arrived accordingly marched northward 
from their detraining stations at 1 a.m. to carry out the 
role assigned to them. 

The main body of the 5th Division moved off at 3 a.m., 
but the rear guard was obliged to push some way north- 
ward towards Bellignies (3 miles north-west of Bavai), 
to cover the withdrawal of its guns from St. Waast through 
Bavai : a flank march, though short, across the enemy's 
front, which the nature of the country made inevitable. 
There was a brush with German troops about Breaugies 
(just south of Bellignies) and a second encounter near 
Bavai, where the guns of the XV. Brigade R.F.A. came 
into action with good effect. By 6.30 a.m. — just one hour 
late — the bulk of the rear guard had crossed the road 
Bavai — Eth, when, dropping into the Roman road, it 
was no further troubled ; the Germans followed it up at 
no great distance, but never pressed the pursuit. 

Further to the west, the main bodies of the 3rd Division 
moved off at 5 a.m., the rear guard taking up a line from 
the Roman road westward through Bermeries to Wargnies 


le Petit, where its left was in touch with General Allenby's or, Aug. 
command. The ground on the west flank of the British, 1914. 
over which the Cavalry Division was working, is cut into 
a series of ridges by four streams, which flow in a north- 
westerly direction into the Upper Schelde between Bou- 
chain and Cambrai. Across this ground from north-east to 
south-west runs the straight line of the Bavai — Cambrai 
road, and from north to south the Valenciennes — Solesmes 
— Le Cateau road. The 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades 
were extended from Wargnies beyond Jenlain, with the 
3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades to their left rear between 
Maresches and Preseau, all on the first ridge ; and the 
19th Brigade, again to the left rear, on the next ridge be- 
tween Sepmeries and Querenaing. 

The operations which now ensued on the west flank 
may be summarized as a running fight during which the 
Germans closed in, following the II. Corps and Cavalry 
Division, so that at night their advanced troops were 
practically in contact with the British. 

The 7th Brigade, the rear guard of the 3rd Division, 
began its retirement upon Le Quesnoy without seeing any 
sign of the enemy except a few horsemen ; a reconnais- 
sance pushed north-west to Famars, on the outskirts of 
Valenciennes, could also find nothing of him. On the other 
hand, bodies of French Territorial troops, belonging to 
General d'Amade's 84th Territorial Division, originally at 
Conde, were met retreating southward from Valenciennes, 
which indicated the evacuation of that town, and the 
prospect of increasing pressure from the enemy on the west. 
Reports from the Flying Corps pointed to the same con- 
clusion : the head of a very large column — apparently a 
corps (the IV.) — had been seen at Quievrechain (5 miles 
north-east of Valenciennes) at 7.30 a.m. Another column 
of cavalry and guns, three miles in length (evidently two 
regiments, part of the //. Corps), was moving south from 
Somain (12 miles west of Valenciennes), and its head had 
reached Bouchain (11 miles south-west of Valenciennes) at 
6 A.M. Lastly, between 9 and 10 a.m. the cavalry 
rear guard reported that parties of the enemy, presumably 
cavalry, were on the road between Haspres and Saulzoir 
(9 miles south by west of Valenciennes), and that they had 
passed along the main road from Valenciennes to Cambrai 
and struck south from the neighbourhood of Denain. The 
British cavalry was in position, well covered, and just keep- 
ing contact with the enemy ; but the menace to the western 


flank of the force and to the retreating French Territorials 
caused the 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades to be sent west- 
wards to Querenaing and beyond it to Verchain, thus 
covering the second ridge already referred to. The 1st 
Cavalry Brigade also moved north of them in the same 
direction, through Artres (4 miles south of Valenciennes) 
where it was heavily, though ineffectively, shelled. 

At the same time, the 19th Brigade was moved by 
General Allenby south-west over the third ridge to Haussy 
in the valley south of it. At Querenaing French gendarmes 
reported the information that large German forces were 
moving south-east from Bouchain, and this news was con- 
firmed by the sound of heavy firing about Avesnes le Sec 
(3 miles south-east of the last-named village), and only 
four miles from the 19th Brigade. The 16th Lancers were 
therefore sent, about noon, to Haspres and Saulzoir to help 
the French Territorials ; but from Saulzoir they were 
driven back by artillery fire and withdrew south-eastwards 
to rejoin the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Meanwhile, the 2nd 
Cavalry Brigade, left alone in the north, had fallen back 
southward, not very hard pressed, first to a line between 
Villers Pol and Le Quesnoy, and then, in succession, to 
Ruesnes, Capelle sur Ecaillon and Vertain, east of the 19th 

The troops of the 4th Division had been in position since 
5 A.M. immediately to the south of Solesmes : the 11th 
Brigade on the right, on the spur to the south-east of the 
town ; the 10th Brigade on the left, near the farm of Fon- 
taine au Tertre (two miles south-west of Solesmes) ; and 
the 12th Brigade, in reserve, in rear at Viesly. It was of the 
utmost importance that Solesmes should be strongly held, 
for upon it the principal highways from the north-east, north 
and north-west, all converged ; the more so as, soon after 
noon, a huge mass of British transport was struggling to 
pass through it by roads which were already seriously 
congested bv crowds of refugees. These, with every kind 
of vehicle from six-horse farm wagons to perambulators, 
everywhere delayed the marching troops, and made it 
impossible for motor cars carrying staff officers to pass the 

The further operations of the cavalry had all the char- 
acteristics of a prolonged rear-guard action.^ Eventually 

^ General Allenby's opponents on this day, Marwitz's cavalry corps, 
spent the night of the 24th/25th : — 2nd and 9lh Cavalry Divisions at 
Marchiennes (16 miles north of Cambrai and about the same distance 


the 1st, 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades under increasing shell 25 Aug. 
fire from the enemy, fell back along the third of the ridges i^^"^- 
between the Selle and the Harpies. The French 84th 
Territorial Division was found retreating southward across 
this ridge, and liaison was arranged with it ; but at one 
time the pressure upon the British cavalry seemed so heavy 
that the 19th Brigade was brought up on to the ridge from 
Haussy and deployed, in order to relieve it. The Germans, 
however, were checked with no great difficulty ; the 19th 
Brigade, between 2 and 3 p.m., then resumed its way south- 
ward to Solesmes, while the bulk of the cavalry and horse 
artillery, having for the time-being shaken off the enemy, 
was collected and massed to the east of Vertain (3 miles 
north-east of Solesmes). Here, between 3 and 4 p.m., they 
were suddenly assailed by a storm of German shells from 
the north-east as well as from the north ; whereupon the 
Cavalry Division, being cramped for space, moved across 
country by brigades and still smaller bodies, after detailing 
rear guards to cover the passage of the infantry through 
Vertain and Solesmes. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade drew off 
south-east, leaving behind the greater part of the 4th 
Hussars with instructions to gain touch with the I. Corps ; 
part of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, including its headquarters, 
took the same route ; the 1st Cavalry Brigade fell back to 
the high ground immediately south-east of Solesmes; the 
4th, with other portions of the Cavalry Division, remained 
in the vicinity of that town. 

Meanwhile, the rear guard of the 3rd Division (7th 
Brigade) was gradually coming in from Le Quesnoy to 
Solesmes, and by 5.45 p.m. its head had reached the point 
where the roads from Romeries, Vertain and Vendegies 
meet immediately to the north of Solesmes. There the 
1/Wiltshire and 2/South Lancashire halted and deployed, 
whilst the 3/Worcestershire occupied a covering position 
to the south of Solesmes between the 10th and 11th Brigades. 
The 2/Irish Rifles and a section of the 41st Battery, the rear 

from the British flank), and the 4th Cavalry Division at Orchies (4 miles 
north of Marchiennes). The corps orders for the 25th were for " an 
" overtaking pursuit," and the divisions were given as their respective 
ohjectives the three towns lying to the south-west, one behind the other : 
Le Cateau, Solesmes and Haspres. This line of march brought them in 
on the flank of the British, but too late to be effective. It is claimed 
that charges were made against the French Territorials ; but, except for 
" a street fight " in Haspres, about 3 p.m., " after which the 9th Cavalry 
Division spent the night there," the II. Cavalry Corps, according to the 
German records, employed only artillery fire against the British. (Poseck, 
pp. 51-55.) 


party of the rear guard, having been warned of strong 
German forces moving on Le Quesnoy, were following the 
rest of the 7th Brigade slowly on account of the units in 
front taking every precaution and continually halting ; they 
were at this time at Pont a Pierres, on the main road, a couple 
of miles to the north-east of Romeries. The 19th Brigade 
about the same time was passing west of Solesmes, through 
St. Python, and beginning to make its way up the Selle valley 
by Briastre and Neuvilly towards Le Cateau. The 4th 
Cavalry Brigade, together with the detachments of other 
mounted troops near Solesmes which had joined it, fell back 
by St. Python south-west upon Viesly, soon after the Wilt- 
shire and South Lancashire (7th Brigade) had been deployed. 
By 6 P.M., or soon after, these two battalions were the only 
troops covering Solesmes, whilst the 4th Division still held 
its original position on the high ground to the south of that 
town, with orders from G.H.Q. to cover the retirement of 
Map 9. the 3rd Division, Cavalry Division and 19th Brigade. 

The stifling heat of the day had about 5 p.m. given place 
to a thunderstorm ; the light therefore began to fail very 
early and the rain streamed down in torrents. Through 
this downpour, between 6 and 7 p.m., the remainder of 
the 3rd Division, drenched to the skin, hungry and weary, 
marched into their billets on the Le Cateau position : the 
8th Brigade to Audencourt and the 9th to Inchy. 

The main body of the 5th Division came in earlier, 

between 3 and 5 p.m., on the right of the 3rd : the 13th 

Brigade between Le Cateau and Troisvilles, and the 15th, 

west of it, to Troisvilles. The march along the Roman 

road had been most trying, for the sun beat fiercely upon 

the interminable length of the straight, white, dusty road, 

and under the tall trees of the Forest of Mormal there was 

not a breath of air to relieve the stifling heat. The 13th 

Brigade was delayed for some time just outside Le Cateau 

to allow six regiments and a cyclist battalion of General 

Sordet's cavalry corps to pass under the railway bridge on 

their way westward. As soon as the rear guard, the 14th 

Brigade, which had been little troubled, came in between 

5.30 and 6.30 p.m., the D. C.L.I, and half of the East Surrey ^ 

were sent to the east of Le Cateau to establish connection 

with the I. Corps, while the Suffolk and the Manchester 

were diverted a little westward to the other side of the Selle 

^ The two remaining companies under Major H. S. Tew had been mis- 
directed on the evening of the 24th, and had spent the night at Eth, from 
which place they marched by Ruesnes, Vertain and Solesmes to Viesly, 
where they arrived between 5 and G p.m. 


valley astride the Roman road just south of Montay. Here, 25 Aug. 
with two batteries of the XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A., they i^i^- 
entrenched in order to keep the Germans at a distance upon 
that side. 

As darkness began to close in, the 7th Brigade, the 4th 
Division, and half of the Cavalry Division were still engaged, 
or in position to engage, with the enemy near Solesmes ; the 
19th Brigade and the remainder of the Cavalry Division 
were still far from their halting places for the night ; the 
5th Division and part of the 3rd Division had, however, 
reached their destinations on the Le Cateau position. 
From front and left flank, the Germans appeared to be 
closing in, but at a respectful distance without affording the 
British the satisfaction of seeing the results of their good 
shooting. It would indeed have alleviated the fatigue of 
the men, tired out as they were with deployments upon 
rear-guard positions which were never attacked, had they 
had more fighting ; but the Germans never really came 
within rifle shot and rarely gave even the guns a target. 

The air reports which arrived at G.H.Q. during the day 
and were summarized in the afternoon gave, correctly, 
German columns near Bavai and Le Quesnoy, with a third 
between them {6th, 7th and 5th Divisions), and one entering 
Valenciennes {8th Division). This information was passed 
to the two corps and the Cavalry Division. A later sum- 
mary made up at night showed the first three columns 
further advanced — the head of one column being half-way 
between Le Quesnoy and Landrccies — a great collection 
of troops near Valenciennes {IV. Reserve Corps and 3rd 
Division) and a western flanking column (cavalry) moving 
through Orchies, wath numerous advanced parties to the 
south. Some infantry was moving on Solesmes. This 
very accurate picture does not seem to have been com- 
municated to the corps or divisions, or to the cavalry. 


Movements of the German First and Second Armies 
FROM 23rd to 25th August 1914 

Until the 27th August inclusive, the German First and Second Map 3. 
Armies were both under the orders of Bulow, the commander of the Sketch 6. 
Second Army, and they appear to have had no other directions from 
Supreme Headquarters than those issued on the 18th August : 

" The First and Second Armies, combined under the command 
' of Genera loberst von Biilow, will have their advanced guards across 



" the Brussels — Namur railway by the 20th August, when they 
" will wheel southwards " — that is they were to continue the great 
wheel pivoting on Thionville laid down in the initial directions.^ 

On the 23rd August, after the battles of Charleroi ^ and Mons, 
Billow, in his instructions for the 24th, directed the First Army to 
continue the attack on the British and " to send the IX. Corps round 
" the west side of Maubeuge as soon as possible, with the //. Corps 
" in echelon behind it, in order to envelop the left flank of the French 
" Fifth Army." This, he says, could not be carried out because the 
British offered " renewed " resistance on the 24th. 

The German Second Army, with Richthofen's /. Cavalry Corps, 
continuing the pursuit of the French Fifth Army on that day, 
reached in the evening an east and west line between Dinant and 
Maubeuge, and detailed the VII. Corps, the right of its line, to 
watch the south-eastern side of the French fortress. Marwitz's 
II. Cavalry Corps was sent towards Tournai and Denain " to attack 
" the British left flank." 

On the 25th, the First Army continued the attack against the 
British, hoping to envelop their left wing ; " but the enemy, by a 
" cleverly executed retirement, evaded the First Army, in spite of 
" the latter's brilliant marching performances," ^ 

The Second Army continued the pursuit of the French, but in a 
south-westerly direction, so that at night the heads of its four corps 
were roughly on a south-east and north-west line passing through 
Solre le Chateau. Maubeuge was invested by the VII. Corps on 
the south-east and by the IX. Corps (of the First Army) on the 
north-west, and at the suggestion of the First Army, a double 
envelopment of the British was to be attempted : 

" Strong portions of the 14th Division were, if possible, to advance 
" round the south of Maubeuge against the rear of the British, in 
" the direction of Aulnoye," and " the /. Cavalry Corps was also 
" ordered to push forward in a westerly direction via Aulnoye to 
" hinder the retreat of the British." But neither infantry nor cavalry 
got within a march of Aulnoye and, in any case, the British were six 
miles south of that place on the evening of the 25th August. 

Thus it was that on this day the British were not in contact with 
the German Second Army ; of their collision with the First Army 
the next chapter will tell. 

The German Official Account of this part of the operations ends 

as follows : — " Air reconnaissance up to 4 p.m. gave the following 

' surprising [and incomplete] picture. ' At Solre le Chateau and 

' ' south-west of Valenciennes, artillery fights ; retiring enemy of 

' ' all arms on the road Maubeuge — Le Cateau, and on the railway 

' ' alongside heavy traffic, direction Le Cateau.' The hopes which 

' shortly before had been based at Army Headquarters on the 

' advance of the First Army did not seem likely to be fulfilled ; it 

' appeared that the British had managed to extricate themselves 

' from the threatening envelopment by the First Army ; the artillery 

' fire meant rear-guard actions." The accounts go on to describe the 

expectations derived from the reported "demoralization of the 


On tliis day General von Gallwitz, who was in charge of the 

1 Kluck, p. 9. * See page 46. 

^ The movements of the First Army are further described on page 149 
et seq. 


siege of Namur (with the Guard Reserve and XI. Corps, the inner 21-25Aug 
flank corps of tlie Second and Third Armies), was able to report that, 1914. 
except for a few forts on the south-west front, the fortress was in his 
hands. So there was every prospect of these corps becoming avail- 
able in the near future. 


Movements of General Valabregue's Group of Reserve 


The following were the movements of General Valabregue's 
Group, 21st-25th August. They are of interest, as this group was 
the nearest French formation of all arms to the right of the British 

On the 22nd August, General Valabregue still had his head- Map 3. 
quarters at Avesnes (10 miles south of Maubeuge). On the evening 
of the 21st, the 69th Reserve Division commenced a movement north- 
east on Beaumont and Cousolre (13 miles and 10 miles east of Mau- 
beuge, respectively). On the 22nd at 9 p.m. the group received 
orders not to go so far east, but to march northwards towards the 
Sambre, so as to have its left on the fortress of Maubeuge, and its 
right on the road Solre sur Sambre — Beaumont, facing north-east. 
Its march was much impeded by the crowds of refugees on the roads. 

On the 23rd the orders to the group were slightly changed : it 
was to go further northwards and prevent the passage of the Sambre 
near Solre sur Sambre ; for this purpose it was to take up a position 
south of the river between Montignies and the Bois de Jeumont, 
69th Reserve Division on the right, 53rd Reserve Division on the left, 
headquarters at Solre le Chateau (10 miles south-east of Maubeuge). 
These orders were in course of execution, when news came of the 
attack on the British at Mons. Towards 5 p.m. it also became 
known that the left flank of the French XVIII. Corps had been 
attacked near Thuin, and that it was necessary to support it. The 
69th Reserve Division was then ordered north-eastwards towards 
Thirimont — Bousignies (both two miles to the north of Beaumont) 
and the 53rd, on its left, towards Cousolre, the result of which was 
to widen the gap between the Group Valabregue and the British 
Expeditionary Force. 

On the, after an engagement in which the 53rd Reserve 
Division took part, the Group Valabregue retired, moving past the 
east and south fronts of Maubeuge. On the 25th it continued its 
retreat by Dompierre to the north-west of Avesnes. It was thus 
abreast of and in touch with the British, in fact, as already related, 
it came into collision on the roads with the I. Corps. The 53rd 
Reserve Division, as will appear later, supported that corps when 
attacked at Maroilles. 



(Sketches A, 4 & 6 ; Maps 3, 9 & 10) 

Maroilles and Landrecies ; Solesmes 

Sketches WiTH the close of day in the I. Corps area, stories brought 
4 & 6. })y refugees began to circulate in the villages in which the 
^^ ' British were settling down, of the approach of the Germans 
towards Maroilles and Landrecies, near which places lay the 
two main passages over the Sambre at the southern end 
of the Forest of Mormal. Although Sir Douglas Haig had 
not had the forest searched, he had taken precautions 
against a hostile attack from it upon his western flank 
during his retreat : the bridge over the Sambre, which lies 
to the north-west of Maroilles and carries the road from Le 
Quesnoy south-eastward through the forest by Locquignol 
to Maroilles, was guarded by a troop of the 15th Hussars : 
another troop watched a lock bridge some two miles 
farther down the river. Infantry was to relieve the cavalry 
at night : at Maroilles the passages of the Sambre were to 
be held by the 6th Brigade, and those near Landrecies by 
the 4th (Guards) Brigade. On the right of the I. Corps were 
General Valabregue's Reserve divisions. From all reports, 
the enemy was not within striking distance, ^ and so little 
were the rumours believed that an officer of the 15th 
Hussars was denied permission by the local civil author- 
ities to destroy some wooden buildings, which obstructed 
his view near Maroilles bridge, on the ground that no 
Germans were anywhere near him. Suddenly, about 5.30 
P.M., there was a panic amongst the inhabitants of Land- 
recies, caused by cries that the Germans were upon them. 

^ According to the statements of German officers, the enemy seems to 
have been equally unaware of our presence at Landrecies and Maroilles 
(see page 133, f.n. 2). 



The troops promptly got under arms, and two companies 25 Auy 
of the 3/Coldstream took post at the road-junction near the i^^"*- 
railway about half a mile to the north-west of the town. 
Mounted patrols were sent out, but without finding any 
enemy. At Maroilles half an hour later (about 6 p.m.) 
German parties ^ engaged the two detachments of the 15th 
Hussars, but were easily held at bay for an hour, when the 
assailants of the road bridge brought up a field gun and, 
creeping forward under cover of the very buildings which 
the British officer had wished to destroy, compelled the 
troop to fall back. As it retired towards Maroilles, it was 
met by a company of the 1 /Royal Berkshire which was 
coming up in relief. The infantry took post by the Rue 
des Juifs about a mile to the south-east of the bridge. The 
Germans challenging in French succeeded in enticing a 
British officer forward and making a prisoner of him ; but 
they made no further advance and presently retired. 

In Maroilles itself there was for a time such a congestion 
of supply lorries and of refugees with their vehicles, that the 
three remaining companies of the Royal Berkshire could 
march off only after considerable delay to the support of the 
company at the Rue des Juifs. When these companies at 
last came up, they found that the enemy had retired, and 
accordingly pushed on to recover the lost bridge. The 
only access to this, however, was by a causeway over 
marshy ground, and the enemy having barricaded the 
bridge and put his field gun into position, the Royal Berk- 
shire failed to drive him from it. After a total loss of 
over sixty men, it was decided to make no further attempt 
to recapture the bridge until daylight, and to be content 
with forbidding advance along the causeway. 

Meanwhile at Landrecies also there had been fighting, 
the seriousness of which was at the time somewhat 
exaggerated. The cavalry patrols returned with the 
report that all was clear, and the 4th (Guards) Brigade 
was confirmed in its belief that the alarm at 5.30 p.m. 
had been a false one. Subsequent events proved that 
the rumour of the near presence of Germans was true.^ 

^ The force wliich came to Maroilles was the iSth Regiment of the 5th 
Division, III. Corps, the advanced guard of the 5th Division. See Sketch 6. 

2 The advanced guard of the German 7th Division (IV. Corps) — an 
infantry brigade (the 14th) with a battery — had marched from Le Quesnoy 
past the south of the forest towards Landrecies for the purpose of billeting 
there, entirely ignorant of the j)resence of the British. On discovering the 
town was occupied, the vanguard crept along the hedges and corn-stooks, 
and entrenched themselves parallel to the road not five hundred yards from 


At 7.30 P.M. No. 3 Company of the 3/Coldstream was on 
piquet, on the road, with a machine gun upon each flank, 
and wire entanglements a short distance ahead. Wheels 
and horses were heard approaching along the road ; ^ the 
sentry challenged. The challenge was answered in French ; 
a body of men loomed through the darkness, and the 
officer in command advanced to question them. He was 
answered always in French, but in the course of the parley 
the supposed Frenchmen edged themselves up closer to 
the piquet, and then, suddenly and without the slightest 
warning, lowered their bayonets and charged. In the 
first moment of surprise, they knocked down the officer, 
seized the right-hand machine gun and dragged it ten 
yards, but a few seconds later they were swept away 
by a volley from the piquet, and the machine gun was 

The piquet was at once reinforced ; and the rest of the 
4th (Guards) Brigade turned out, the 2/Grenadiers coming 
up to the support of the Coldstream along the road from 
the railway northwards. Charge after charge was made by 
the enemy without gaining any advantage, and at 8.30 p.m. 
German artillery opened fire upon the town and upon the 
piquet. This fire was accurate, but the German infantry- 
men shot far too high and accomplished little, until, having 
by means of incendiary bombs set light to some straw- 
stacks in a farmyard close to the British, they apparently 
realized for the first time, by the light of the flames, that 
their way was barred only by a single thin line.^ There- 
upon they tried, but unsuccessfully, to enfilade the Guards. 
The engagement went on until past midnight when a 
howitzer of the 60th Battery was hauled up by hand to 
within close range and with its third round silenced the 
German guns. This seems to have decided the issue, and 
the enemy drew off. The losses of the 3/Coldstream were 

the line of the two advanced companies of the 3/Coldstreani. Tliey even 
loopholed a garden wall still closer to those companies. The original 
report that the German force was part of the IX. Corps appears to have 
been due to an identification received by wireless from the Eiffel Tower, 
Paris. For the German movements on the 25th see Note I. at end of 

^ This, according to the story of a German general who was present, 
was the regimental transport which had been ordered to trot past the 
column to get to the billets. 

2 Lance-Corporal G. H. Wyatt, 3rd Coldstream Guards, dashed at and 
extinguished the burning straw, though the enemy was only 25 yards 
distant. For this and a further act of bravery at Villcrs Cotterets on 1st 
September, he received the V.C. 


one hundred and twenty ; those of the Germans, according 25 Aug. 
to their official casualty hsts, were 127.^ 1914. 

By about 4 a.m. on the 2Gth, all was again quiet on 
the line of the I. Corps. But, as it was impossible in the 
dark to discover the scope of the attack, the information 
sent back to G.H.Q. from the I. Corps was somewhat 
alarming. At 10 p.m. there was telephoned " Attack heavy 
"from north-west can you send help? " Thereupon G.H.Q. 
directed General Smith-Dorrien to move to the assistance 
of the I. Corps, at any rate to send the 19th Brigade. He 
was forced to reply, " much regret my troops are quite 
" unable to move to-night. The 19th Brigade could not 
" reach Landrecies in a useful state." On this being re- 
peated to General Haig, he decided at 12.30 a.m. on the 
26th, after a consultation with General Lomax, to move 
the 1st Division at 6 a.m. via Marbaix and Grand Fayt to 
the neighbourhood of Favril to support the left of the 2nd 
Division. At 1.35 a.m. he reported to G.H.Q., " situation 
" very critical," and that he was putting in every available 
man on his left. A little later he suggested that the troops 
near Le Cateau should assist by advancing straight on 
Landrecies. There is at this point a gap in the records, 
but it would appear from what followed that General Haig 
must have been told by Sir John French that, in view of 
the direction of the enemy's attack, he must retire south- 
wards, not south-west. At 3.45 a.m., the Commander-in- 
Chief informed General Smith-Dorrien, " enemy appears 
" to be working round south of Landrecies. G.O.C. 4th 
" Brigade doubts if he can move south. My orders of 
" last night [7.30 p.m.] hold good as far as you and Snow 
" [4th Division] are concerned," and he now gave the II. 
Corps the Le Cateau — Busigny road, previously allotted to 
the I. Corps, thus directing the latter more south than 
south-west. Just before 5 a.m., through the French 

1 The following information was obtained from Berlin in 1921 : 

The German forces involved in the fighting at Landrecies consisted of 
the 14th Infantry Brigade (Major-General von Oven) of the IV. Corps, 
containing the 27th and 165th Regiments, one squadron 10th Hussars, 
and the 4th Field Artillery Regiment. Of these the 165ih Regiment and three 
batteries were only employed in the later stages of the fight. 

Casualties : 27th Regt. — 1 officer, 32 men killed, 4 officers, 65 men 
wounded ; 165th Regt. — 3 men wounded, 2 men missing ; 10th Hussars — 
1 man woui\ded ; 4th Field Artillery Regt. — 3 officers and IG men killed; 
total casualties, 127. 

Further details from the German side of the fighting at Landrecies will 
be found in an article in "The Army Quarterly" of July 1934, pp. 247-54, 
founded on the history of the 27th Regiment, which was the chief par- 


Mission at G.H.Q., he called on his French neighbours, 
General Lanrezac and General d'Amade, and General 
Sordet (cavalry corps) for help, making clear, as will be 
narrated under the operations of the 26th, that the I. Corps 
was retiring south, if not south-eastward.^ 

The labours of the II. Corps lasted to as late an hour 
on the night of the 25th/26th as those of the I. Corps. All 
through the evening the stream of transport flowed slowly 
and uneasily through Solesmes, and shortly before dark the 
Germans closed more resolutely on the South Lancashire 
and Wiltshire (7th Brigade), the rear guard of the 3rd 
Division before that town ; they brought their artillery 
up to close range, though pushing forward only small 
bodies of infantry. When darkness fell, however, they 
went into bivouac. ^ This enabled the two battalions to be 

1 The messages sent off at 5 a.m. are Nos. 630 and 631 in F.O.A. i. (ii.) 
Annexes i. The one to General Lanrezac runs (those to Generals d'Amade 
and to General Sordet are similar) : — 

" The I. Corps was sharply attacked this night [night of 25th/26th] in 
" its cantonments between Landrecies and Le Cateaii, and is retreating, 
" if it can, on Guise, southwards [Guise is 17 miles due south of Landrecies] 
" if not south-eastwards in the direction of La Capelle [15 miles south-east 
" of Landrecies]." 

" The cavalry division, cantonned at Catillon [5 miles south-east of 
" Le Cateau] is going to retire on Bohain ; the II. Corps and 4th Division, 
" cantonned in the zone Caudry — Le Cateau, are going to retire on the 
" line Le Catelet — Beaurevoir. The next day, the general movement of 
" retreat will be continued on Peronne. 

" In these circumstances, Field-Marshal French asks you to help him 
" by receiving the I. Corps until it can rejoin the main body of the British 
" forces." 

2 The action at Solesmes looms somewhat large, as so often in an 
unsuccessful fight, in the German records, the title of " The Battle of 
" Solesmes — Le Cateau " being given officially to the fighting on the 25th 
and 26th. The history of the 153rd Regiment (pp. 51-2) states that the 
regiment, with a battery, formed the advanced guard of the 8th Division 
marching south on Solesmes. It ran unexpectedly into the British on the 
heights north of the town about dusk, the divisional cavalry not having 
reported the presence of any enemy. After a rapid deployment, all three 
battalions (only two companies following in second line) attacked about 
7 P.M. ; but in the dusk, in enclosed country, confusion resulted and, two 
battalions of the 93rd Regiment coming up on the right (see page 40 of 
its history), the Germans fired on each other. To stop this the manoeuvre 
bugle call of "The whole will halt " was sounded, followed by the " Com- 
" manding Officers " call. It was proposed to make a bayonet attack at 
9 P.M., but this was abandoned on account of the existence of wire fences, 
and the two regiments lay down where they were. This was perhaps 
fortunate for them, for they would have found in Solesmes only a portion 
of the 72nd Regiment, of the 8th Division, which had entered and settled 
down in the north-west corner of the town, without having seen any 
British (" Regt. No. 153," p. 52). Soon after this General von Kluck 
himself had arrived in the town, ha\'ing selected it as his night quarters, 
only to retire to Haussy, a couple of miles back. (Kluck, p. 55.) 


withdrawn, much scattered, indeed, and with the loss of 25 Aug. 
several small detachments cut off by the enemy, but with- ^^^'^' 
out further mishap.^ The infantry of the 4th Division 
meanwhile stood fast on the heights immediately south of 
Solesmes, while the mass of transport and troops disen- 
tangled itself on the roads leading south and south-east 
upon Caudry and Le Cateau. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade 
(less the 4th Hussars), with the headquarters and portions 
of the 2nd, pushed on through the congested streets of Le 
Cateau to Catillon, where it halted for the night between 
10 and 11 P.M. The 1st Cavalry Brigade bivouacked in 
the fields south of Le Cateau, with the exception of the 
5th Dragoon Guards, which retired after dark to Inchy 
and thence shortly before midnight to Troisvilles, west 
of Le Cateau, their horses utterly exhausted. The 19th 
Brigade, together with two companies of the Scots 
Fusiliers which had lost connection with the rear guard 
of the 9th Brigade, marched into Le Cateau at 10 p.m. 
and bivouacked in the central square and at the goods 
station. The bulk of the 7th Brigade retired to Caudry ; 
the 41st Battery and the Irish Rifles, the last of the 
rear guard, reached Le Cateau about 11 p.m., where they 
waited until instructions were obtained by Colonel Bird 
from the II. Corps, and then marched to Maurois. There 
they bivouacked in the grey dawn of the 26th. At least 
one detachment of the Wiltshire, having with some diffi- 
culty avoided capture, also found its way into Le Cateau 
in the early hours of the 26th. The masses of troops, 
guns and transport at dusk and for many hours afterwards 
pressing through the northern entrance to the town created 
most alarming congestion. The British alone would have 
sufficed to crowd it, but besides the British a considerable 
body of French chasseurs marched in from Valenciennes. 
The mile of road from Montay to Le Cateau falls very 
steeply and becomes a defile, and here infantry, cavalry, 
guns and wagons, in places all three abreast, were jammed 
together in what seemed irremediable confusion. Had the 
Germans pushed on, even with a small force supported by 
guns, they might have done terrible damage ; for one or 
two shells would have sufficed to produce a complete block 
on the road. The rear parties of the Suffolk and Manchester 
(14th Brigade), rear guard of the 5th Division, had been 

^ Both infantry brigades of the German 8th Division {IV. Corps) and 
the 4th Cavalry Division had casualties at Solesmes on 25th August (see 
" Schlachten und Gefechte "). 


withdrawn at dusk, and there would have been nothing to 
stop an enterprising enemy. The Germans, however, were 
no less weary than the British, and they had also gained 
sufficient experience of British rapid fire to make them 
cautious. They had gone into bivouac here as at Solesmes ; 
and though at dusk they were in force only five miles 
away,^ they left the British free to disentangle themselves 
at their leisure. The process was long and tedious, and 
until a late hour Viesly was as hopelessly blocked as 
Solesmes had been. 

Though the infantry of the 4th Division had been un- 
molested since dusk, except by one or two cavalry patrols 
which were quickly driven off, it was not free to begin to 
move off until 9 p.m. During its detention near Solesmes 
the remainder of its divisional artillery, except the heavy 
battery, had been detraining, and the 2/Royal Inniskilling 
Fusihers, which had not come up with the 12th Brigade, 
arrived at Ligny, where it took over guard of the divisional 
transport. In view of the flank march that the division 
would later have to make to its new position on the left of 
the Le Cateau line, two companies of this battalion were 
in the afternoon sent as a western flank guard to occupy 
Map 10. Bevillers and Beauvois. A hasty reconnaissance of the 
new ground had been made on the 24th, at the suggestion 
of G.H.Q., by Br.-General J. A. L. Haldane (10th Brigade) 
and Lieut.-Colonel A. A. Montgomery (G.S.O. 2) ; and 
they selected a good reverse-slope position, or, as it was then 
called, " back position," covering Haucourt. 

At 5 P.M. the 4th Division issued warning orders for the 
march to and occupation of the position. ^ A G.H.Q. altera- 
tion, sent out at 6.40 p.m., reduced the length of front to be 
held, and made it from Fontaine au Pire to Wambaix, that 
is to say about three miles. General Snow's orders directed 
that the 11th and 12th Brigades should hold the front line, 
with the 10th in reserve at Haucourt, whilst the artillery 
should assemble at Ligny. 

The artiflery (with the exception of the XXXII. Brigade, 
which was with the rear guard) arrived fairly early in the 
evening ; the 12th Brigade moved off from the heights 
above Solesmes soon after 9 p.m. ; the 11th, an hour later, 
before which time the German guns shelled and set on fire 
the eastern portion of Briastre (2 miles south of Solesmes), 

1 The 7th Division spent the night in Bousies, Fontaine, and adjoining 

2 Appendix 15. 


at the west corner of which the brigade was assembled, 25 Aug. 
The 10th Brigade, which could not move until the 3rd ^^i'*- 
Division had got clear of Briastre, started at midnight. As 
the three brigades marched off south-west rain was falling 
heavily and the darkness was only relieved on the northern 
horizon by the red glow of villages fired by the enemy. 
Instructions from G.H.Q., received in the afternoon, in- 
timated that the retirement would probably be continued 
at 7 A.M. next morning, but it was on the position defined 
in General Snow's orders that the troops of the 4th Division 
stood when the first shots were fired in the early morning 
of the 26th. 

The head of General Sordet's cavalry corps had passed 
through Ligny, behind the Le Cateau position, in the course 
of the day, and the corps bivouacked for the night near 
Walincourt. Its arrival on the western flank of the British 
was, perhaps, the one cheerful feature in a gloomy situation. 

To summarize the situation : at 7.30 p.m. the British Map 3. 
Commander-in-Chief, after having established his head- Sketch g. 
quarters at St. Quentinat 6 p.m., had issued definite orders for 
the retreat to be continued ten to fifteen miles to the south- 
west on the morrow,^ to a line Busigny — Le Catelet, facing 
a little west of north. Communications from General Joffre 
admitted that his attempt at the offensive had failed, and 
that his intention was to retire to the line Laon — La Fere — 
St. Quentin, and from this position to take the offensive 
again. Later information which arrived during the evening 
was not reassuring. There seemed little time to lose. The 
Germans were in touch with the British at several places, 
and had considerable forces within a few miles of them. 
They were known to be pushing troops with all speed 
towards the western flank of the British, where General 
d'Amade's six Reserve and Territorial divisions guarded 
the long line to the sea. The I. Corps had already been 
struck at Maroilles and at Landrecies, the II. had been 
engaged in a definite rear-guard action at Solesmes ; and 
it was not difficult to guess what these blows might portend. 
Sir Douglas Haig's troops stood to arms all night, losing 
the rest of which they were so much in need ; and it was 
feared that the attack at Landrecies might mean that the 
Germans were already in force across the southern end of 
the Forest of Mormal, between Landrecies and the Roman 

^ Page 123 and Appendix 14. 


road.^ It will be remembered that on the afternoon of the 
25th General Haig had issued instructions for the I. Corps 
to march at 2 a.m. south-westwards to the right of the Le 
Cateau position. ^ These orders he had changed on receiv- 
ing those of the Field-Marshal to continue on to Busigny ; 
but the events of the night had caused him to decide, with at 
least Sir John French's knowledge, to retreat southwards 
on Guise. For the G.O.C. II. Corps a decision was more 

Map 9. Only a sketch would give an idea how the various units 

Sketch 6. of the II. Corps had been jostled between the barrier of the 
Forest of Mormal, which edged them away to the west, and 
the pressure of the enemy on the western flank, which bore 
them back towards the east. To General Smith-Dorrien 
the true situation did not reveal itself until late at night. 
At 10.15 P.M. he too had issued orders for the renewal of the 
retreat towards the line La Sabliere — Beaurevoir pre- 
scribed by Sir John French's 7.30 p.m. order which he had 
received at 9 p.m. : the transport was to start at 4 a.m. and 
the main bodies at 7 a.m.^ 

Meantime the divisions of his corps, acting on his 
previous order, were in readiness on or near the Le Cateau 
position : the 3rd Division, under orders issued at 9.42 p.m., 
was to stand to arms at 4 a.m. and be prepared to occupy 
the sections of the position allotted in case of attack ; two 
and a half infantry brigades of the 5th Division were 
bivouacking on a line across the Troisvilles — Le Cateau 
roads, with the remaining two battalions posted on the high 
ground north-east of Le Cateau to connect with the I. Corps 
as originally arranged. This division had orders to stand 
to arms at 3.30 a.m. 

G.H.Q. orders for the continuance of the retreat, and 
for the Cavalry Division to cover it on the north and west,^ 
did not reach General Allenby at his headquarters at 
Beaumont (on the west side of Inchy) until after 11 p.m. 
Shortly after their receipt, Lieut. -Colonel G. K. Ansell of 
the 5th Dragoon Guards came in to report that his regiment 
and the 4th Division had safely withdrawn from the high 
ground north of Viesly, which overlooks Solesmes, and that 
the enemy was in possession of it. Now it was this high 
ground and the ridges abreast of it that the cavalry must 
occupy to cover the initial stages of the retirement from the 

1 The German 7th Division was there, with the 5th Division in rear of it. 
2 See page 123. * Appendix 16. * Appendix 14. 


Le Cateau position, and as General Allenby had not suffi- 26 Aug. 
cient force — in fact, only the 4th Cavalry Brigade — under ^^^^• 
his hand to recapture it, he proceeded at once to General 
Smith-Dorrien's headquarters at Bertry. There he ex- 
plained the situation, and expressed the opinion that, the 
Germans being so close, unless the troops of the II. Corps 
and 4th Division could march " before daylight," the 
enemy would be upon them before they could start, and 
it would be necessary to fight. General Smith-Dorricn 
thereupon at 2 a.m. sent for General H. I. W. Hamilton, 
commanding the 3rd Division, whose headquarters were 
close at hand, and asked him if it was possible to get on 
the move during the hours of darkness. His reply was 
that many units of the division were only just coming in, 
and he did not think that he could get them formed up 
for retreat before 9 a.m. General Allenby further said 
that his division was too much scattered and exhausted to 
be able to give useful assistance in covering the retreat 
next day. General Smith-Dorrien, after a full discussion 
of the situation with Generals Allenby and Hamilton, 
reluctantly came to the decision that he must stand his 
ground. To do this he must ask the commanders of the 
Cavalry Division and of the 4th Division to place them- 
selves under his orders ; with them and with the II. Corps 
— that is to say, with the whole of the British troops in the 
line from Catillon westwards — he would strike the enemy 
hard, and, after he had done so, continue the retreat. 
Whether he could withdraw his troops after such a stand 
would depend on the pressure and weight of the German 
attack. Several German cavalry divisions, and the head 
of a division of the German IV. Corps were already before 
him, the British I. Corps had been attacked by another 
corps, and further forces were known to be hurrying up. 
Much would obviously depend on breaking off the action 
before the overwhelming numbers of the enemy became 
effective. To guard his flanks he had to depend upon the 
weary and sorely tried Cavalry Division, with some possibility 
of assistance on the western flank from General Sordet's 
equally weary cavalry corps, and on the eastern flank from 
the I. Corps, should it not be held fast itself. Help from 
this quarter, however, appeared unlikely, and indeed Sir 
Douglas Haig had asked for assistance from the II. Corps. 
The situation, in short, seemed to him one that could 
be saved only by desperate measures. General Allenby 
promptly accepted the invitation to act under his com- 


mand ; there was no doubt that General Snow of the 4th 
Division would do likewise when the request reached him. 

A lengthy message was despatched by II. Corps at 
3.30 A.M. to G.H.Q. St. Quentin, by motor car, where it 
was received about 5 a.m., informing Sir John French in 
detail of the decision taken. At 5 a.m. another message 
was sent asking that General Sordet might be told that 
the II. Corps was not retiring, 

A written reply to the first message was prepared at 
once, between 5 and 6 a.m., but it was not sent until 11.5 
a.m. as it was found that G.H.Q. could communicate with 
the II. Corps by a railway telephone line. General Smith- 
Dorrien was accordingly summoned from his quarters in 
Bertry to the railway station, where, shortly after 6 a.m., 
Major-General H. H. Wilson, the Sub-Chief of the General 
Staff, spoke to him and gave him the gist of the G.H.Q. 
reply.^ Subsequent to this conversation the 4th Division 
was warned at 6.55 a.m. by G.H.Q, that the II. Corps 
might not be able to continue the retirement at the time 
arranged, and that it was to cover Sir H. Smith-Dorrien's 
left flank. The written reply sent by G.H.Q. to General 
Smith-Dorrien — despatched after a further message had 
come in from the II. Corps, timed 9.10 a.m., reporting that 
Caudry was being heavily attacked, but that the 7th 
Brigade was still holding its own — was signed " C. in C," 
and ran as follows : — 

" Your G971 received. News from I. Corps reassuring 
" also 4 divisions of French Territorials in area Cambrai — ■ 
" Villers — Campeau — Douai — Croisilles. Thus left seems 
" fairly secure. An intercepted German message says 
" German Guard Cavalry Division ^ about Solesmes were 
" asking for reinforcements at 8.25 a.m. 

" If you can hold your ground the situation appears 
" likely to improve. 4th Division must co-operate. 

^ Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien spoke, " putting the matter squarely," to 
General Wilson, who said to him that his " voice was the first cheerful 
" one he had heard for days," and " if you stand to fight there will be 
" another Sedan." To this the commander of the II. Corps replied that 
" it was impossible to break away now, as the action had already begun, 
" and that he could hear the guns firing as he spoke." (See " Recollections 
" of Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien " in the Army Quarterly, October 1930, by 
his signal officer, Br.-General A. Hildebrand, who accompanied liim to the 
telephone, and the " Foreword " to " The Advance from Mons 1914 " 
(translation of Bloem's " Vormarsch "), written by Br.-General Sir J. E. 
Edmonds, to whom General Smith-Dorrien spoke on the matter at 2 p.m. 
during the battle.) 

^ The 9th Cavalry Division was near Solesmes ; the Guard Cavalry 
Division was thirty miles further to the east. 


" French troops are taking offensive on right of I. Corps. 20 Aug. 
" Although you are given a free hand as to method this i^^^- 
" telegram is not intended to convey the impression that 
" I am not as anxious for you to carry out the retirement 
" and you must make every endeavour to do so." 

The die having been cast, it remained only for General 
Smith-Dorrien to inform his subordinates. As General 
H. I. W. Hamilton had been present at the conference, 
this was easy as regards the 3rd Division ; to Sir Charles 
Fergusson he went himself about 4 a.m. and whilst he was 
discussing the situation the commander of the 5th Division 
drew his attention to the fact that formed bodies, the rear 
guard (2/R. Irish Rifles) of the 3rd Division, were still 
coming in, dead beat. The actual orders to stand fast, 
which were conveyed by two staff officers in a motor car, 
reached 5th Division headquarters shortly afterwards. A 
staff officer was sent to the 4th Division, but did not arrive 
at Haucourt until 5 a.m., only a short time before the 
division became engaged. The news that meanwhile had 
come in to II. Corps headquarters was not reassuring. At 
2.30 A.M. General Smith-Dorrien heard that the Germans 
had occupied Cambrai ; and at 3.45 a.m. that they were 
working round to the south of Landrecies. These details 
were neither of them true ; but, true or false, they could 
not affect his resolution.^ 

Seeing that many of the brigades had only lately come 
in, it was inevitable that the divisional commanders should 
have considerable difficulty in communicating the order to 
stand fast to the brigadiers, owing to the uncertainty of 
their whereabouts : General Shaw of the 9th Brigade, 
being in Beaumont, received the order through General 
Allenby at 3.30 a.m. ; the 7th and 8th Brigades, having 
stood to arms at 4 a.m., were actually on the position and 
improving trenches when fired on at 6 a.m. There is no 
record either of the order to continue the retirement at 
7 A.M., issued by the II. Corps at 10.15 p.m., or of the 
later order not to retire, reaching them. Of the 5th 
Division, Count Gleichen of the 15th Brigade, being 
nearest to divisional headquarters, heard at 5 a.m., and 
the other two infantry brigadiers about 6 a.m. 

We left the 4th Division hungry, wet and weary after Map 9. 
its hurried journey by night to Le Cateau, its equally Sketch 6. 

^ Actually, the French 84th Territorial Division was in occui)ation of 
Cambrai and its northern approaches. 


hurried march to Solcsmes, and a long wait in position with- 
out supplies,^ marching through the darkness to take 
its place on the extreme left of General Smith-Dorrien's 
line between Fontaine au Pire and Wambaix, with its 
reserve at Haucourt. The first of the troops to reach their 
destinatiorL, about 1 a.m., were the headquarters and two 
companies of the 2/Inniskilling which had left Ligny shortly 
before midnight to secure Esnes (5 miles south-east of 
Cambrai). There they found a small party of General 
Sordet's cavalry which had barricaded the western ap- 
proaches to the village. The two remaining companies of 
the battalion, it will be recalled, had been detached as a 
flank guard to Beauvois and Bevillers (both about four 
miles north-east of Esnes) on the afternoon of the 25th. 
Just after darkness fell, the outposts before Bevillers were 
suddenly aware of a troop of German horse, which came 
within thirty yards of them before it was recognized to be 
hostile, and was followed by six motor lorries full of Jdger. 
The Inniskillings opened rapid fire, with what effect could 
not be seen, but the enemy retired in haste. The two com- 
panies remained in their positions until 3 a.m. when, by 
order of their brigadier, they marched for Longsart (just 
north-west of Haucourt). Meanwhile, the advanced guard 
of the 12th Brigade — two companies of the Essex — which 
had moved from Bethencourt at 10 p.m., reached Longsart 
about 3.30 a.m., and the 2/Lancashire Fusiliers came in a 
little later. Both parties entrenched themselves on the 
plateau just to the north-west of the hamlet. The 1 /King's 
Own reached the eastern end of Haucourt shortly after 
4 A.M. and halted there. General Sordet's rear guard riding 
through the village during the halt. The two remaining 
companies of the Essex, which had been left at Bethencourt 
as rear guard under Lieut. -Colonel F. C. Anley, remained 
there until recalled at 3 a.m., and then marched via Ligny 
and Haucourt to Esnes, where they arrived two hours later. 
Towards 5 a.m. the flank-guard companies of the Innis- 
killings came in to Longsart. Thus by 5 a.m. the whole of 
the 12th Brigade had reached its allotted ground. 

The 11th Brigade was not so fortunate in reaching with- 
out mishap the position assigned to it. It was about 2.15 
a.m. before the head of its column arrived at Fontaine au 
Pire, the march having been delayed by a serious block of 
3rd Division transport at Viesly, which brought the brigade 

^ " Cookers " had not been issued to the 4th Division as they had tc 
the other divisions. 

THE 4th division 145 

to a standstill for some time. The 1 /Hampshire was leading, 26 Aug. 
followed by the 1/East Lancashire, two companies of the i^i*- 
1/Somerset L.I., the 1/Rifle Brigade (one company and a 
platoon being with the brigade transport to give assistance), 
the transport, and the rest of the Somerset L.I. as rear 
guard. Fontaine au Pire and Beauvois north of it, form 
one long straggling village a mile and a half in length, and 
it was intended, on reaching the road fork near the far end 
of the houses, to take the right to Cattenieres, which passes 
north of the " Quarry ", called " Carriere " on the French 
1: 80,000 map then in use, which marked the top of the ridge 
on which position was to be taken. Not an inhabitant 
could be found of whom to make enquiries, and a mistake 
was made. A street to the right in Fontaine au Pire, im- 
mediately before the turning to Cattenieres, was followed, 
and it led out to a mud track between pasture fields, with 
barbed wire on either side of it. The brigadier, who was 
near the head of the column, decided therefore to halt and 
rest the brigade where it stood and wait for daylight, the 
two leading battalions being already well down the track, 
and the rest of the column in the streets of the long village, 
the rear still in Beauvois. The Rifle Brigade was ordered 
to furnish outposts, and moved to the open fields in front, 
pushing out one company down the slope to cover the ground 
between Beauvois and Cattenieres, The leading portion 
of the Somerset L.I. covered the transport near the southern 
end of Beauvois. The other units sought what resting 
places they could, some in houses, some in fields recently 
tenanted by cattle, whilst others were lucky enough to find 
corn in stooks on which to bed down. The portion of the 
transport which had entered the lane was in the course of 
time turned round so that the whole of it could be got clear 
by taking the road from the centre of Fontaine au Pire 
southwards to Ligny, two and a half miles away across the 
Warnelle ravine. The rear guard of the Somerset went 
on towards Ligny to occupy a covering position there, and 
the detachment of the Rifle Brigade with the transport, 
which had become rear guard and had remained some time 
at the northern end of Beauvois, rejoined its battalion. 

Towards daylight, in accordance with custom at train- 
ing and manoeuvres, the brigade stood to arms preparatory 
to moving back to its assigned sector just behind the 
ridge. In the faint light of early morning parties of the 
Rifle Brigade on outpost saw hostile cavalry and artillery 
advancing from the north on Cattenieres, and almost im- 



mediately the enemy opened an indiscriminate and ineffect- 
ive rifle fire from the north and north-west backed by a few 
shell. The transport was at once got on the move, the 
German skirmishers who were pushing in towards Fontaine 
au Pire being held off by the cooks and brakesmen, and by 
the Somerset. The whole of it reached Ligny safely, and 
during the day retired by stages to Serain (6 miles south 
of Ligny), where it arrived late in the afternoon. 

As it had grown light, about 4 a.m., the senior officer 
with the East Lancashire (the lieutenant-colonel and second- 
in-command having gone to a brigade conference), seeing 
the exposed position of the battalion, drew it back, first a 
couple of hundred yards clear of the wire to the open fields, 
and then to the ridge. When the Germans opened fire on 
the transport, he formed his men up in battle position, 
with two companies in reserve. The Hampshire were also 
moved back about 4.30 a.m., and then, by Br.-General A. G. 
Hunter- Weston's order, took position on the left of the 
East Lancashire, astride the railway leading to Cambrai. 
The Somerset L.I. (half-battalion) and the Rifle Brigade, 
helped by fire from the East Lancashire, gradually fell back 
fighting, somewhat intermixed in consequence, but with 
the Rifle Brigade mostly on the right of the line, the front 
of the two battalions being astride and to the west of the 
Ligny — Fontaine au Pire road. The half battalion of the 
Somerset L.I. was ordered back from Ligny to support its 
forward companies ; but on the left there were too many 
troops in the front line, and the East Lancashire, except one 
company, were withdrawn into reserve in the hollow behind 
the right centre. 

The 10th Brigade, the last of the troops of the 4th 
Division to leave the Solesmes position, also had some 
difficulty in finding its way in the dark night. It moved, 
with its transport leading, via Viesly, Bethencourt and 
Beauvois, where the head of the column turned southwards, 
as the 11th Brigade had done, to Fontaine au Pire. Here 
the divisional commander, who was at the moment with 
the 11th Brigade, told Br.-General Haldane to pass through 
that brigade and to continue on to Haucourt. The 11th 
Brigade, having already taken a turn to the right, the wrong 
one as it happened, the 10th Brigade transport took the 
next turning, and at 3.40 a.m. arrived at a village whose 
name it could not discover until daylight, when a board 
inside the railway station revealed it as Cattenieres, in front 
of the outpost position of the 4th Division, as was at 

THE 4th division 147 

once realized. Firing was already heard, and the transport 26 Aug 
was hastily got on the march for Haucourt, its tail being ^^^*- 
fired into shortly after it had cleared Cattenieres. The 
infantry of the brigade — there was a considerable gap 
between it and the transport owing to the latter moving 
faster — had not followed the vehicles. With the Seaforth 
as rear guard and the R. Irish Fusiliers as west flank guard, 
marching by country tracks until Beauvois was reached, 
the column, after one mistake at a turning near Beauvois 
— corrected by receiving fire — marched straight through 
Fontaine au Pire at the first streak of dawn without turn- 
ing off, and by 4.30 a.m. had arrived at Haucourt, where 
the men threw themselves down and slept, hoping that, 
being in reserve to the division, they might have a little rest. 
A French cavalry patrol returning shortly before 5 a.m. 
reported that the front was clear, but there was no means 
of verifying this except by using the horses of field officers 
and the Staff, for reasons which will appear. 

Thus, by 5 a.m. on the 26th, the infantry of the 4th 
Division had to all intents occupied the position assigned 
to it for the night of the 25th/26th, with its firing line near 
the crest of the ridge, in order to obtain a field of fire, and 
the rest under cover on the short, sharpish reverse slope 
which falls to the Warnelle stream behind it. It was a good 
position for action, though hardly for a rear-guard action, 
in view of the long, gradual and exposed slope from the 
stream up to Ligny which must be crossed in retirement. 
On the right there was a gap of nearly two thousand yards 
between the Rifle Brigade and the 3/Worcestershire of the 
3rd Division about Caudry. There was also a gap of 
nearly three-quarters of a mile between the 11th and the 
12th Brigades, but the 10th Brigade, in reserve south of 
the Warnelle, near Haucourt, covered this, the R. Dublin 
Fusiliers and R. Warwickshire being east of the village 
and the Seaforth and R. Irish Fusiliers behind it. The 
artillery was not in battle position, as its commander, Br.- 
General G. F. Milne, was with divisional headquarters and 
therefore expected to resume the retirement at 7 a.m. 

Though complete in field artillery and infantry, the 
4th Division was as yet without its divisional cavalry ^ and 

^ A deplorable order had been issued on the 24th by G.H.Q. with- 
drawmg the divisional squadron (A of the 19th Hussars) of the 5th Division 
from it. With B Squadron, the divisional cavalry of the 4th Division, 
which had just arrived, it was sent to reinforce the Cavalry Division. 
Thus — one of the two squadrons formerly allotted to divisions having 
been withdrawn for the same purpose early in 1914 — the 4th and 5th 


cyclists, heavy battery, engineers, the greater part of its signal 
company,^ train, ammunition column and field ambulances. 
Hence there were no mounted troops to furnish patrols 
or covering parties, no 60-pdrs. to mow down the enemy 
before deployment as was to be done with such striking 
effect by the heavy battery of the 5th Division on the 
right, no engineers to superintend working parties, very 
limited means of attending to wounded, no means of 
removing them, and, above all, no means of controlling 
from divisional headquarters the general movements of 
some fifteen thousand men extended along a front of five 
miles, except by the use of mounted officers and orderlies. 
The ground on which the 4th Division lay, on the left of 
the British line, was open fields under cultivation, with 
some of the crops, notably beetroot and clover, still un- 
gathered, soaked by the rain of the previous night, and 
in many places churned into deep mud by the passage of 
men, horses, guns and vehicles ; over such a surface 
horses, already none too fresh, were soon exhausted by a few 
hard gallops. 

The 4th Division did not receive the 7.30 p.m. order to 
continue the retreat on Le Catelet until midnight, when a 
copy was brought by Colonel W. H. Bowes from G.H.Q. 
Divisional orders were prepared but were not issued to 
the brigades, for they were all on the move. At 5 a.m. 
officers were sent out to ascertain the positions of the 

Divisions were left without trained '" eyes," except in so far as mounted 
officers, the cyclist companies, and Yeomanry detachments eventually 
sent to replace the cavalry, could furnish them. The absence of the 
divisional cavalry squadron was a cause of heavy loss to the 4th Division 
on the morning of Le Cateau, as will be seen, and hampered both divisions 
gravely in the retreat to the Seine and the advance to the Aisne. The 
other divisional troops (less the 60-pdr. battery) mentioned in the text as 
being absent reached St. Quentin early on the 26th, and the O.C. Signal 
Company sent a message to the 4th Division, timed 8.10 a.m., which 
reached General Snow during the morning, saying " detained here by 
" order of G.H.Q." Formed in a column, under Lieut. -Colonel H. B. 
Jones, the C.R.E. of the 4th Division, these divisional troops were soon 
after ordered by G.H.Q. to retire. They waited south of the Somme until 
the main body of the division reached them on the 28th. Half a squadron 
North Irish Horse reported to 4th Division headquarters on the evening of 
the 2.5th, and was sent to assist the flank detachment of the R. Inniskilling 
Fusiliers at Bevillers. During the night, however, it lost touch of the 
4th Division and fought at Caudry on the 26th with the 3rd Division, not 
returning to the 4th until late on the 28th. 

^ No. 1 Section (for divisional headquarters) was absent. It contained 
three cable detachments with telephone equipment, motor cyclists, push 
cyclists, mounted men, heliographs and other means of communication. 
It formed the exchange centre of the division for the despatch and receipt 
of messages. 


troops, and it was intended to issue the orders as soon as 26 Aug. 
the officers reported, should the situation permit retire- i^^'*- 
ment. It was almost immediately after this that Captain 
B. Walcot arrived from General Smith-Dorrien to announce 
his decision to stand and to request that the 4th Division 
would cover his flank. General Snow agreed to do so, 
and at 5.30 a.m. sent messages to his brigades to take up 
the positions already ordered, and to the 11th Brigade to 
get in touch with the 3rd Division. Shortly after this the 
officers who had carried the order returned reporting, to use 
the words of one of them, Captain H. J. Elles, that the 
infantry was already " at it hammer and tongs." 


The Movements of the German First Army on 
THE 25th August 1914 

General von Kluek's book and the special sketch-map for the Map 3. 
25th /26th August which he has provided make it perfectly clear Sketch (j. 
how there came to be collisions between the British and the Germans 
at Maroilles, Landrecies and Solesmes on the night of the 25th/26th. 

On the evening of the 24th August he issued operation orders 
in the expectation that the British Army would accept battle on the 
line Maubeuge — Bavai — Valenciennes, making his plans for a 
" Cannae " on a small scale. His IX. Corps was to attack against 
Bavai, that is against General Haig, and guard against any inter- 
ference from Maubeuge ; the ///. Corps against St. Vaast — Wargnies, 
that is against General Smith-Dorrien ; the IV. Corps was to envelop 
the British western flank ; and the //. Cavalry Corps was to work 
round in rear of the British and cut off their retreat " westwards." 
He had asked that a division of the VII. Corps and the /. Cavalry 
Corps might be sent from Maubeuge to close on the British right. 
^Vith the //. Corps only a march in rear and close to Conde, and the 
IV. Reserve Corps following on, " the envelopment of the British 
" Army, provided it stood, seemed certain." 

The First Army Staff appears to have been considerably misled 
by air reports. Those of the evening of the 24th and early morning 
of the 25th gave " the impression of a general retreat on Maubeuge " :^ 
columns were converging on Bavai, and the roads from Le Quesnoy 
to the south and south-west, as well as the main roads through the 
Forest of Mormal were reported clear of troops. At 7.15 a.m. orders 
were sent out by motor car for the II., III. and IV. Corps to wheel 
southwards on Aulnoye, Landrecies and Le Cateau, and the II. 
Cavalry Corps to advance to the area north-west of Guise. " It was 
" hoped to cut off the British and then turn against the left flank of 
" the French." 

At 9 A.M., however, the " surprising air report " arrived that 
long coloums were moving from Bavai on Le Cateau by the Roman 

1 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 73. 


road and that numerous small columns were crossing the Selle, 
north and south of Solesmes. " The enemy was marching in an 
" almost opposite direction to what was supposed earlier in the 
" morning." Fresh orders were rapidly sent out to attack the 
British and prevent their further retreat : the //. Cavalry Corps 
was to head them off, the III. Corps to make its right (west) column 
stronger, the IV. Corps to march with its right wing on Solesmes — • 
Le Cateau, with the II. Corps west of it. The IX. Corps was to con- 
tinue opposite Maubeuge covering the movement. 

In accordance with these orders, the IX. Corps wheeled south- 
Map 9. eastwards from Bavai and commenced investing Maubeuge.^ The 
///. Corps, passing over the old front of Smith-Dorrien's corps, 
St. Vaast — Wargnies, in two divisional columns, pushed its advanced 
guards through the Forest of Mormal south-eastwards by the two 
good roads which lead to Berlaimont and Maroilles. At night the 
5th Division billeted and bivouacked in the forest, along the high 
road Maroilles — Le Quesnoy, in the area Hachette (near the bridge 
over the Sambre 2 miles N.N.W. of Maroilles) — Locquignol — Joli- 
metz : ^ and the leading troops of its advanced guard came in 
contact with the 1 /Royal Berkshire of the 6th Brigade, as already 
related.^ The 6th Division halted north of the 5th Division, with 
half its troops on either side of the forest : the 11th Brigade and part 
of the divisional troops in the area, west of the forest, between 
Villereau — Gommegnies — Amfroipret and the border of the forest ; 
the 12th Brigade and the rest of the divisional troops in the area, 
east of the forest, La Grande Carriere — Aymeries — Berlaimont — 

The IV. Corps, marching due south, also advanced in two 
columns, one via Le Quesnoy and then past the south-west boundary 
of the Forest of Mormal to Landrecies, and the other via Valenciennes 
to Solesmes. Thus they came in contact with the British 2nd * and 
3rd Divisions. The II. Cavalry Corps billeted four to eight miles 
east of Cambrai, around Avesnes lez Aubert. 
Map 3. Of the German Second Army, as already noticed, the VII. Corps 
was detailed to invest the eastern side of Maubeuge. The X. Reserve 
Corps was near Solre le Chateau on the night of the 25th/26th August, 
witjfi the I. Cavalry Corps on its left near Sivry, and the X. Corps 
beyond it. 

^ There is a good account of the investment of Maubeuge by the IX 
Corps on the 25th August, the blocking of the roads, construction of 
entanglements, etc., in Tepp's " In Siegessturm nach Paris." 

2 This information was obtained in Berlin in January 1922. 

3 See page 133. The III. Battalion of the 48th Regiment was in action 
at Maroilles (" Regt. No. 48," p. 16). 

* The following extract from a book by Oberleutnant Dr. Lohrisch, 
published in 1917, entitled " Im Siegessturm von LiJttich an die Marne," 
throws a little light on Landrecies. His battalion (7. of the 165th Regiment) 
marched forward on the 25th via Le Quesnoy to Bousies (four miles 
north-west of Landrecies), where it halted for the night. He continues : 
' Our advanced guard stumbled on the enemy at Landrecies, and the //. 
' and 111. Battalions, which were billeted at Robersart and Fontaine au Bois 
' (south-east of Bousies), and two of our companies were sent forward in the 
' direction of the little town. ... At 5.45 a.m. (on the 26th) the regiment 
' was ordered to capture Landrecies, as the tired troops sent forward the 
' night before, on account of difficulties caused by the darkness and ignor- 
' ance of the ground, had been compelled to stop their operations." 


Thus it was that on the evening of the 25th, the German //. 25 Aug. 
Cavalry Corps and IV. and III. Corps were close enough to the 1914. 
British to be able to strike in force at Le Cateau in the early morning, j^jg^p q^ 
whilst the IV. Reserve, II., I. Cavalry, X. Reserve, and X. Corps 
were within a march of the field, with parts of the IX. and VII. Corps, 
drawn from the investment of Maubeuge, available in case of need. 


First Belgian Sortie from Antwerp, the 24th, 25th 
AND 2Gth August 

During the 24th, 25th and 26th August the Belgian Army, in 24-26Aug. 
order to assist the French and British troops fighting on the Sambre 1914. 
and on the Mons canal, made a sortie against the German corps Map 2. 
observing Antwerp, with a view to detaining them there, and, if 
possible, acting against the German communications passing through 
Louvain and Brussels. 

On the 24th a reconnaissance was made, and on the 25th four 
di\isions, with a fifth division and the cavalry division in reserve, 
attacked southwards from Malines towards the gap between Louvain 
and Brussels. Good progress was made, and the fight continued on 
the 26th, when information from Paris of the withdrawal of the 
French and British forces having been received, and also of the 
intention of General Joffre to resume the offensive at a later date, it 
was decided to adopt a similar course and retire into Antwerp. 

As will be seen, the second Belgian sortie took place during the 
Battle of the Marne. 




(Sketch 7 ; Maps 3, 10 & 11) 

The 26th August, the anniversary of Crecy, dawned hot 
and misty, with some prospect that the historic weather 
of A.D. 1346 would be repeated, and the certainty that 
in an almost similarly desperate situation, the stout hearts 
of our island race would again triumph over superiority of 
numbers, and rob the enemy of what he considered an 
easy prey. 

Although in the first instance it was the intention of 
G.H.Q. to occupy a position in the neighbourhood of Le 
Cateau, a subsequent order had directed the retreat to be 
continued.^ It was upon the original understanding, how- 
ever, and in expectation that the I. Corps would be in touch 
with the right flank of the II. Corps, that the disposition 
of the troops on the ground was made by General Smith- 
Dorrien. Officers had been sent ahead to reconnoitre the 
position, but most of the units did not come on to it until 
dark, and heavy rain had interfered with the observation 
of those which reached it earlier in the day. Moreover it 
was difficult to identify places by the map ; for the only 
one then available was the French uncontoured hachurcd 
map of the 1 : 80,000 scale, to which British officers were 
not accustomed. When the troops stood to arms about 
4 A.M. under orders to continue the retreat, there was a 
heavy ground mist, so that, though the troops were 
approximately in position, there was little opportunity, 
or apparent necessity, to rectify the line and choose the 
best ground to repel a determined attack by superior 

The town of Le Cateau lies deep in the narrow valley 

^ See page 123. 




of the river Selle, surrounded on all sides by open culti- 26 Aug. 
vated country, with never a fence, except in the immediate i^^'*- 
vicinity of the villages, and hardly a tree, except along the 
chaussecs. The river, though small, is unfordable. The 
heights on the east, crescent shaped, slightly overlook those 
on the west, the highest ground of which is roughly a — j 
in plan : the head (the Reumont ridge), running north 
to south, from Viesly to Reumont, and the stalk (the Le 
Cateau position or Caudry ridge) east to west from Le 
Cateau to Crevecoeur. The reverse or south side of the 
Caudry ridge drops sharply to the Warnelle stream, with 
higher undulating country behind it, dotted with villages 
and woods, admirably suited to cover a retirement, once 
the long slope from the stream up to the edge of the 
higher ground marked by Montigny and Ligny had been 
passed. The front or north side is broken by a succession 
of long spurs running northwards ; the western end drops 
to the Schelde canal. 

Except for this canal with its accompanying stream, 
and the Selle river with its tributary the Rivierette des 
Essarts, the country was free for the movement of troops 
of all arms, and, from its open character, generally suited 
to defensive action, though there were numerous small 
valleys up which enterprising and well-trained infantry 
could approach unseen. Beetroot and clover covered 
part of the ground, but the other crops had mostly been 
cut and partly harvested. Here and there were lines of 
cattle, picketed Flemish fashion, in the forage patches. 
Crops had been held so sacred at British manceuvres that 
there was occasionally hesitation before troops, particularly 
mounted troops, would move across them. 

The town of Le Cateau on the right of the line of the 
II. Corps was at 4.40 a.m. still full of British transport, 
though the long columns, after protracted delay owing 
to the passage of General Sordet's cavalry corps across 
them, had for hours been pushing south-westwards along 
the Roman road. The 19th Brigade, placed under the 
II. Corps by G.H.Q. orders of the previous night, had not 
yet received any message postponing the retreat, as its 
headquarters could not be found in the dark ; it was 
delayed nearly two hours in starting by the congestion in 
the streets, and had hardly got clear — ^ being the last 
troops to leave the town — when shortly after 6 a.m. the Map il 
first German scouts made their appearance in Le Cateau. 
There was some firing, but the scouts were easily kept at a 


distance, and the brigade eventually pursued its march to 
Reumont with hardly a casualty. The 1/D. C.L.I, and half 
of the 1/East Surrey (14th Brigade), which had bivouacked 
on the heights to the east of Le Cateau, and had likewise 
received no orders to stand fast, were at this time formed 
up in column of route by the railway bridge near the south- 
eastern corner of the town, facing west and ready to march 
off at 6.30 A.M. The remainder of the 14th Brigade had 
meanwhile occupied a position immediately to the west of 
Le Cateau : the Suffolk across the centre of the spur— 
which for convenience may be called the Montay spur — 
which runs from the Reumont ridge north-eastward to 
Montay, the remaining one and a half battalions south of 
them. Next to the 14th Brigade, but separated from it by 
a small valley between spurs, came the K.O.Y.L.I. of the 
13th Brigade, with the XV. Brigade R.F.A. and the 37th 
Howitzer Battery in close support on the right, and the 
XXVIII, Brigade R.F.A. in close support on the left. 
West of the K.O.Y.L.I., the Scottish Borderers of the same 
brigade occupied the next ridge of rising ground ; and west 
of them again, the 15th Brigade prolonged the line to the 
road that leads from Troisvilles to Inchy, with the XXVII. 
Brigade R.F.A. in rear of it to the east and south-east of 
Troisvilles. Of the rest of the artillery of the 5th Division, 
the 61st Howitzer Battery and 108th Heavy Battery took 
up positions of observation about a mile to the north of 
Reumont, while the 65th Howitzer Battery unlimbered to 
the south-west of Troisvilles. In reserve near Reumont 
was the 19th Brigade, as orders to halt there reached it 
soon after it left Le Cateau. 

The battalions of the 14th Brigade which lay west of 
Le Cateau did not receive their counter-orders to stand fast 
until about 6 a.m. ; those to the east of the town never re- 
ceived them at all. Hence the 5th Division was in a manner 
surprised, and compelled to accept battle in positions which 
were being held with a view to slipping away under cover 
of rear guards. The Suffolk in particular, who lay im- 
mediately to the west of Le Cateau, were badly placed for 
a general action : there was much dead ground on every 
side ; the field of fire was for the most part limited and 
could nowhere be called really good; while small valleys and 
sunken roads at sundry points gave hostile infantry every 
opportunity of concealing their approach. The battalion, 
in common with the other troops of the 5th Division, made 
shift to throw up such entrenchments as it could with its 

THE 3rd division 155 

" grubbers," no better tools being obtainable. The 26 Aug. 
XXVII. R.F.A. had time to dig in its batteries; the ^^i^- 
XV. Brigade for the most part had to be content to mask 
its guns with corn-sheaves. 

But the serious difficulties in which the 5th Division 
became involved during the action of the 26th August 
arose not so much from the lack of preparation of the 
position, as from the belief that the I. Corps would be on 
its right, and hold the high ground east of Le Cateau, 
whence an enemy could rake a considerable portion of the 
line. The risk that this ground would fall into German 
hands had to be accepted by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien 
when, late indeed but as early as in the circumstances it 
was possible to come to a decision, he resolved to stand and 

Passing to the dispositions of the 3rd Division, the 9th 
Brigade took up the line from Troisvilles westward to 
Audencourt. The brigadier, as has been told, had received 
timely notice of General Smith-Dorrien's intentions and, 
bringing his battalions early into position, enabled them 
to improve some mathematically straight trenches which 
had been hastily begun by French civilians, and to dig 
themselves fair shelter. The XXIII. Brigade R.F.A. was 
in close support on the reverse side of the ridge, with two 
sections dug in on the forward slope, one of the 107th 
Battery to the right front, and one of the 108th Battery 
on the left rear of the Lincolnshire, the left of the brigade. 
About a thousand yards to the south of these batteries was 
the 65th Howitzer Battery (5th Division), and about five 
hundred yards to the west of them the 48th Heavy Battery. 

Next on the left of the 9th Brigade stood the 8th Brigade, 
holding Audencourt and the ground thence westward to 
Caudry. This brigade also was partly dug in, having taken 
in hand at dawn the work of improving and extending some 
trenches made by French civilians. 

The 7th Brigade occupied Caudry and its vicinity. 
The right of the position along the ridge to the north-east 
of the town was held by the 1 /Wiltshire ; an enclosure near 
Point 129, just north of the town, by the 2/South Lancashire 
and the 56th Field Company R.E. ; and the remainder of 
the line along the north and north-western outskirts by the 
3/Worcestershire. The battalions of the 7th Brigade were 
very weak, many men having lost their way in the dark 
during the retirement from Solesmes. The Irish Rifles, 
indeed, had not yet rejoined, being still at Maurois with the 


41st Battery. A divisional reserve was formed of men 
collected from first line transport, signal sections, etc. 

Of the rest of the 3rd Division artillery, the XL. Brigade 
R.F.A. was in readiness south-west of Audencourt ; two 
batteries of the XLII. Brigade R.F.A. at the north-eastern 
corner of Caudry ; a section of I Battery R.H.A. (of the 
Cavalry Division) at the north-western corner ; and the 
XXX. Howitzer Brigade just south of the buildings of 
Caudry facing north-west. Speaking generally, the 3rd 
Division was better posted and more fully prepared for 
action than either the 5th Division on its right or the 4th 
on its left, having received earlier warning of what was 
expected of it. 

Between Caudry and Fontaine au Pire there was a gap ; 
this, however, was of no importance, since it could be swept 
by crossfire from the two villages ; and at Fontaine au 
Pire itself the rear guard of the 11th Brigade was still 
bickering with the advanced parties of the enemy. Its 
main body, as already described, was aligned from the east 
of the " Quarry " south-west towards the Warnelle ravine ; 
and by this time the King's Own had crossed the ravine 
from Haucourt, and was halted in mass near the cross roads 
five hundred yards north-east of Longsart, thus filling the 
gap between the 11th and 12th Brigades. 

In reserve to General Smith-Dorrien's force there were 
nominally the Cavalry Division and the 19th Brigade ; 
orders were issued for the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades to 
proceed to Bazuel and Mazinghien (2 miles east by south 
and 4 miles south-east of Le Cateau respectively), to guard 
the right flank ; whilst the 1st Cavalry Brigade was to take 
post at Escaufourt, about four miles south-west of Le 
Cateau. The 4th Cavalry Brigade, which had moved at 
midnight to Inchy, fell back to Ligny, as desired, at dawn. 
But the orders to the cavalry were for the most part difficult 
to execute, for only the 3rd and 4th Cavalry Brigades were 
more or less complete and concentrated, and they were at 
opposite ends of the line. As it happened, however, part of 
the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades, as well as the 3rd Brigade, 
were in the vicinity of Le Cateau and thus, it was hoped, 
available to cover the gap between the I. and II. Corps. 

Very soon after 6 a.m., while the morning mist was 
still thick, about a dozen German batteries opened fire 
from the vicinity of Forest (3 miles N.N.E. of Le Cateau) ^ 
1 These were batteries of the 7th Division. 


upon the troops immediately west of Le Cateau, thereby 26 Aug. 
putting a stop to entrenching except so far as it could be i^^'*' 
carried on by the men lying down, with their " grubbers." ^ 
The Duke of Cornwall's L.I. and two companies of the 
East Surrey were, as mentioned, waiting in column of 
route in Le Cateau, by the railway bridge in the Faubourg 
de Landrecies when, at 6.30 a.m., exactly the time that 
they should have moved off, rifle fire was opened upon 
them from the windows of the neighbouring houses. ^ 
Several men fell ; but the detachment, under the covering 
fire of the signal section and some of the headquarters of 
the 14th Brigade, was rapidly led back through a succes- 
sion of wire fences to the high ground above the south- 
eastern corner of Le Cateau. Here the six companies 
formed a firing line, north and south, athwart the cross 
roads just to the south of the Faubourg de France. How 
the Germans had contrived to reach the south-eastern out- 
skirts of Le Cateau without being seen, is unknown ; ^ but 
the fact remains that, when the action opened, the Germans 
were in the town on the flank of the II. Corps, with every 
prospect of cutting off the detachment of the 14th Brigade 
which lay on the east of the town, and of pouring through 
the gap between the I. and 11. Corps. They lost no time, 
in fact, in following up that detachment, which, however, 
under cover of a counter-attack by the half-battalion of 
the East Surrey, fell back south-east by successive com- 
panies along the road towards Bazuel, repelling simul- 
taneous attacks against its front and its right flank. A 
mile from Bazuel portions of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, 
followed by the 5th Lancers of the 3rd with D Battery, 
came to its help ; * with their support the D.C.L.I. and 

1 A Note on the German plans for the 26th is given at end of this 
Chapter. Some account of the battle from the German side wll be found 
in a Note at end of Chapter IX. 

2 The account in the history (pp. 63-72) of the 72nd Regiment, which 
was concerned, is rather different. As advanced guard of the 8th Division, 
it started early from Solesmes ; on the " point " nearing Le Cateau a 
cavalry officer, sent on ahead, galloped back, wounded in the arm, shouting 
" the exits are occupied." Pushing on, the leading half-battalion was 
fired on from houses and the railway embankment. Fire was opened on 
a train which was leaving the station, which the regiment heard from 
prisoners contained " higher Staffs and probably General French." In the 
course of the battle the 72nd was cut off from its division by the advance 
of the 7th Division into the gap between them. 

' The 5th Division had been deprived of its divisional squadron two 
days before, but still had a cyclist company for patrolling. See page 147, 
f.n. 1. 

* The 3rd Cavalry Brigade was proceeding to St. Souplet. See below. 


East Surrey soon after 8 a.m. began to move westward to 
rejoin their brigade. The Germans, favoured by the mist, 
had by this time worked up the valley of the Selle south- 
ward from Le Cateau, for about a mile, with no very clear 
idea, probably, of what was going forward, when they were 
caught by the counter-attack on their eastern flank, and 
retired to the south edge of Le Cateau. ^ 

Meanwhile fresh German batteries ^ had opened fire 
from a concealed position near Rambourlieux Farm (2 
miles W.N.W. of Le Cateau) against the troops between 
Le Cateau and the Roman road, now the right of the 
British hne, and practically enfiladed the whole of them 
with most destructive effect. The British guns replied as 
well as they could with nothing but the flashes to guide 
them ; for, though the German aeroplanes were active in 
this quarter of the field, British machines were not em- 
ployed in aid of the artillery. The infantry, having no 
targets as yet, was obliged to endvire the bombardment 
passively, though comparatively early in the day — that is 
to say, soon after 8 a.m. — German skirmishers climbed to 
Point 150 on the summit of the Montay spur, and began 
firing at the British gunners. Upon these, and also upon 
a concealed German machine gun on the Cambrai road the 
left company of the Suffolk opened fire ; but there was 
some doubt as to the situation, for it never occurred to 
any of the officers that the high ground immediately to 
the east and west of Le Cateau would be left open for 
occupation by the enemy. Of the fight that was going 
forward in the valley of the Selle they could see nothing 
nor, in the roar of the battle, hear anything. 

The D. C.L.I, and the East Surrey were, as a matter of 
fact, progressing slowly but steadily westward in spite of 
considerable opposition ; although two companies of the 
former became separated from the rest of the detachment 
and losing touch turned to the south-west upon St. Benin. 
Some confusion was caused during the movement by the 
presence of Germans dressed in what appeared to be 
khaki, ^ which more than once misled the battalions as to the 
action they should take in order to rejoin their division. 
However, D Battery and the southern half-battalion of 
the D. C.L.I, succeeded in enfilading the German troops 

1 Where they remained until the 7th Division came into action on their 
left. (G.O.A., i. p. 520.) 

- Of the 8th Division. 

^ Probably Jdger, who wore a uniform of greenish-grey hue, and 
shakoes, not spiked helmets. 


in the valley, and the enemy withdrew to the eastward, to 26 Aug. 
all appearances pretty severely punished. The greater ^^i'^- 
number of the D. C.L.I, and East Surrey then moved south- 
west on Escaufourt, though one party, while still 500 
yards short of St. Benin, turned westward, and made for 
Reumont, where 5th Division headquarters were estab- 
lished. The bulk of the D. C.L.I, arrived at Escaufourt 
between 11 a.m. and noon, and found that they had cut 
their way through the Germans at the comparatively small 
cost of two hundred casualties, and this number in the 
course of the following days was reduced to one-half by 
the return of missing men. The half-battalion of the East 
Surrey made its way to Maurois, beyond Reumont and 
the 1st and 3rd Cavalry Brigades retired with great de- 
liberation due south up the valley towards St. Souplet. 
The first turning movement of the Germans on the eastern 
flank — attempted, it is true, in no great strength — had thus 
been foiled. 

During this period the troubles of the troops immedi- 
ately to the west of Le Cateau were increasing. About 10 
A.M. the Germans brought guns up to the summit of the 
heights east of the town, and the devoted batteries and 
battalions of the 5th Division on the high ground between 
the town and the Roman road, were now enfiladed from 
both flanks. The 11th Battery man-handled two guns 
round to the east and replied effectively to the German 
fire ; but the concentration of a superior number of 
German guns, probably the artillery of the 7th and 8th 
Divisions, and very soon of the 5th Division also, upon the 
exposed batteries of the XV. and XXVIII. Brigades R.F.A. 
caused considerable losses : salvos of shells crashed down 
on gun after gun in succession, but the gunners stood to 
their work, and the supply of ammunition never failed. 
The Suffolk and K.O.Y.L.L, the front line of the 14th and 
13th Brigades, were also assailed by an unceasing storm 
of shrapnel and high-explosive shell, but vied with the 
artillery in steadiness. At 9.45 a.m. the Argyll and 
Sutherland Highlanders, of the 19th Brigade, who had 
been ordered forward from Reumont, arrived on the right 
rear of the Suffolk ; two companies dug themselves such 
cover as they were able with their " grubbers " on the 
ridge, while the rest remained in the hollow to the west of 
them. About 10 a.m. the firing line at last had a target, 
as German battalions began to advance in thick masses 
along a front of over two miles from the valley of the Selle 


to Rambourlieux Farm.^ The 11th Battery, man-handhng 
a second section round to the right, fired upon them in the 
valley at pointblank range with great execution. Before 
long, every officer of this battery had fallen, and so many 
men that only enough were left to work a single gun. But 
that single gun never ceased firing ; and the other batteries, 
nearly all of which had suffered heavily, showed the like 
indomitable spirit. From Reumont also the 108th Heavy 
Battery burst its sixty-pounder shells among the hostile 
infantry with beautiful precision, tearing great gaps in 
their swarming ranks and strewing the ground with killed 
and wounded. 

But losses did not stop the German infantry of 1914. 
The gaps were instantly filled, and the advance of the 
enemy in the valley, though retarded, was not brought to 
a standstill. Parties reached a little copse upon Montay 
spur, and strove to enfilade the Suffolk from the north ; 
but they were checked mainly by a machine gun of the 
K.O.Y.L.I. posted on the Roman road. Further to the 
west, the Germans made less progress. From the region 
of Rambourlieux Farm, profiting by past experience, they 
came forward in small bodies, at wide intervals, and 
taking cover behind the corn-stooks which covered the 
fields ; but, though they attacked again and again, they 
were driven back by the shrapnel of the artillery. In the 
zone allotted to the 37th and 52nd Batteries and the 
XXVIII. Brigade R.F.A. the Germans came on in close 
formation, and suffered very heavily. The first target of 
the 122nd Battery was a platoon in line, with the men 
shoulder to shoulder, which emerged from a fold in the 
ground. The battery commander gave the order " one 
round gun fire," and every man of the Germans fell. At 
each subsequent effort of the enemy in this direction, 
much the same scene was repeated and each gathering 
line of Germans was laid low. 

Nevertheless, though the machine gun of the K.O.Y.L.I. 
checked every attempt of the enemy to approach the 
Suffolk in force, it was possible for small parties of Germans 
to creep up into a cutting on the Cambrai road on their 
flank, and to enfilade them both with rifles and machine 
guns. Every attempt of these parties to build up a firing 

^ This was the attack of the 7ih Division, with the 14th Brigade on 
both sides of the Forest — Le Cateau road and 13th Brigade on both sides 
of the Forest — Montav road (see Lohrisch). The orders of the 14th Brigade 
were to envelop the British right. "Regt. No. 66" (1930 edition), p. 23. 


line in advance of the cutting was, however, foiled by the 26 Aug. 
steady marksmanship of the Suffolk and by the shells of i^i"*- 
the 52nd Battery. The left company of this battalion had 
besides a very fair field of fire over the ground to the north- 
east, and forbade any hostile progress in that quarter. 
But the German machine guns could be neither discovered 
nor silenced ; and the Suffolk, except on their extreme 
left, which was protected by a sunken road, were falling 
fast under their fire. Lieut. -Colonel H. L. James of the 
Manchester had already pushed forward one company 
and a machine gun to the right rear of the Suffolk, pro- 
longing their line to the south ; shortly after 11 a.m., 
judging the position to be critical, and being unable to 
find the brigadier, he ordered two more companies of his 
battalion to advance and reinforce the Suffolk. At the 
same time, he called upon the Argyll and Sutherland 
Highlanders and 1 /Middlesex, of the 19th Brigade, to 
support him. 

The two companies of the Manchester accordingly 
moved forward under fire of artillery, rifles and machine 
guns, but, in spite of more than one check, succeeded in 
reaching the trenches of the Suffolk. The left company 
seems to have suffered less than the other, and on reaching 
the left company of the Suffolk found that it was not 
needed. The remainder, who bore more to the right, 
were thrown back more than once ; eventually, however, a 
portion reached the right centre of the firing line. Ammuni- 
tion for the Suffolk machine guns began to fail at this 
point ; it was vital to replenish it before the enemy could 
further develop his attack from the east. Major E. C. 
Doughty, who had succeeded to the command of the 
battalion upon the fall of Lieut. -Colonel C. A. H. Brett 
early in the day, with a small party managed to bring up a 
few bandoliers, but he fell desperately wounded at the 
moment of his arrival. Meanwhile, two half-companies 
of the Highlanders from the low ground, once again facing 
a storm of fire, rushed through the wreck of the 11th 
Battery into the right section of the trenches of the Suffolk 
and, though at heavy loss, brought them at least some 
assistance. It was about noon. Two German guns, reported 
to be " heavy," ^ now reached the summit of the Montay 

^ Probably 4-2-inch field howitzers with telescopic trails, enabling them 
to be used for direct fire. Heavy howitzers (each German corps took into 
the field 4 batteries, each of four 5-9 howitzers) were brought up on other 
parts of the field against Caudry (" Regt. No. 153," p. 54) and against 
Troisville and Audencourt (" Regt. No. 93," p. 44). 



spur and opened fire at close range. The last gun of the 
11th Battery was silenced, and the Suffolk and Manchester, 
together with their reinforcement of Highlanders, were in 
a worse plight than ever. Nevertheless, after nearly six 
hours of incessant fire, the troops on the right of the 
British line, which rested on Le Cateau, still stood firm; 
The German infantry was steadily increasing in numbers 
on their front and, despite all efforts, was drawing steadily 
nearer ; their right flank was open ; they were searched 
with fire from front and right and left ; strong columns, 
betokening the approach of the German ///. Corps, were 
closing in upon the right flank. It mattered not : they 
had been ordered to stand. The I. Corps, for whose 
coming they waited, might be late, as Bliicher had been at 
Waterloo ; but, until it should come, there must be no giving 
way. Nor did they yield the ground until the divisional 
orders for retirement reached them some hours later. 

On the left of the K.O.Y.L.I. the 2/Scottish Borderers 
(13th Brigade) and the Bedfordshire and Dorsetshire 
(15th Brigade) were for the present hardly engaged. They 
saw nothing of the enemy but distant columns advancing 
upon Inchy from the north-east, which were observed to be 
caught by shell fire and forced to deploy. With the 9th 
Brigade, on the left again, the situation was nearly similar. 
The German guns ^ opened upon it soon after 6 a.m. before 
the men had completed the trenches begun overnight, 
but with so little effect that they were able to continue 
digging themselves in and, thus sheltered, suffered trifling 
loss. There was no sign of any infantry attack — no 
rifle fire, indeed, except that of a few skirmishers with 
here and there a machine gun — and it was pretty evident 
that the enemy had no idea for the present of any attack 
upon this portion of the line. On the other hand, German 
troops, 2 working up the valley from Bethencourt and from 
the wood just to the east of it towards Inchy, were heavily 
shelled by the guns of the 6th Battery and of the XXIII. 
Brigade R.F.A. Some small parties, nevertheless, contrived 
to make their way into Beaumont and Inchy, only to be 
greeted by the lyddite shells of the 65th Howitzer Battery ; 
all their efforts to build up a firing line in front of these 
twin villages were foiled by the deadly marksmanship of 
the British. 

1 Probably of the 4ih Cavalry Division. 
2 The 4th Cavalry Division. (Poseck, p. 63.) 


Against the line of the 8th Brigade around Audcncourt 26 Aug. 
the German guns came into action rather later than against 1^14 
the 9th Brigade ; but the German infantry showed itself 
almost immediately afterwards, trickling down in thin lines 
towards the Cambrai road, with its machine guns clearly 
visible. Its advance was, however, cautious, and three 
British platoons which had been pushed out to the north 
of the Cambrai road were able to rejoin the brigade without 
being seriously pressed. It was not until about 9 a.m. that 
first the 4/Middlesex to the east of Audencourt, and later 
the machine guns of the Royal Scots, in the country road 
just to the north of it, opened fire upon parties of Germans 
which had crossed the Cambrai road. Even then the en- 
gagement in this quarter throughout the forenoon was no 
more than desultory. The headquarters of the brigade 
and the whole of its transport were in Audencourt itself, 
and there seemed no immediate menace to their security. 
Masses of German infantry were indeed assembling upon 
the Cambrai road under a devastating fire from the British 
artillery ; but the 8th and 9th Brigades had a good field of 
fire, and there was little temptation to the enemy to waste 
strength in attacking them, when immediately to their 
left lay Caudry, forming a decided salient in the British 

Upon Caudry the German shells fell very heavily from 
an early hour, and bullets were whistling down the streets 
even before the fall of the shells. Up to 6 a.m. and even 
later the units of the 7th Brigade were still under the 
impression that the retreat would be resumed ; but the 
enemy's movements soon banished any such idea ; for 
about 7 A.M. the German riflemen ^ moved against both flanks 
of the village with vigour, pouring a very heavy fire in par- 
ticular upon the Worcestershire on the left. So pertinacious 
was the onset that reinforcements were summoned from the 
8th Brigade ; in consequence about 8.30 a.m. two weak com- 
panies of the Royal Irish came up and took post in a railway 
cutting which skirts the eastern flank of the village. Half 
an hour later, at 9 a.m., the Irish Rifles and the 41st Battery 
ended their wanderings of the night by rejoining the brigade.^ 
The battalion entrenched itself about a thousand yards 
south of Caudry near Tronquoy, while the guns unlimbered 
to its right rear. Thus until noon the 7th Brigade contained 
the Germans without difficulty, so that they gained little or 

* The 9th Cavalry Division and three Jdger battahons. (Poseck, p. 59.) 

* See page 135. 


no ground ; it seemed probable that here, as on the rest of 
the British centre, they were husbanding their strength until 
their main effort against both flanks of the British should 
produce its effect. 

P 11. On the left wing, in the 4th Division, no orders had been 

:tch 7. issued for the retirement to be continued ; those sent out 
on the previous evening to occupy the Haucourt position 
still held good ^ and were confirmed as soon as General 
Smith-Dorrien's message reached divisional headquarters 
at 5 A.M. But, as on the right, the general action opened 
with misfortune for the British. Until 6 a.m., or there- 
abouts, the rear guard of the 11th Brigade on the right of 
the division continued exchanging shots with the enemy 
to the north of Fontaine au Pire, when it gradually withdrew, 
the 1/Rifle Brigade coming in last of all and taking position 
in the hollow road which runs southward from Beauvois to 
Ligny. A platoon of Jdger, which was imprudent enough to 
advance in pursuit through Fontaine au Pire, was annihil- 
ated by the accurate fire of a detachment of the 1/Hamp- 
shire. After that the enemy made no further attempt 
to follow up the 11th Brigade. ^ Meanwhile, in the 12th 
Brigade, which was on the left of the 11th, the Lancashire 
Fusiliers and two companies of the Essex Regiment had from 

4 A.M. onwards been preparing a position near Longsart and 
doing what digging was possible with their " grubbers." 
The King's Own had been delayed on the march, but towards 

5 A.M. were seen approaching over the hill from Haucourt. 

French cavalry patrols, as already related, had been 
understood to report the front to be clear ; and the 4th 
Division had no divisional cavalry or cyclists to verify the 
French observations. Suddenly, shortly after 6 a.m., two 
French troopers riding towards Cattenieres were seen to turn 
and gallop at top speed to the south-west; immediately after- 
wards devastating fire of machine guns, after opening on the 
outpost at the railway crossing north of Wambaix, swept 
down upon the King's Own. The battahon on arrival on 
the right of the brigade had halted in quarter-column — that 
is, the companies were in line one behind the other at six 
paces distance — arms had been piled, the officers had fallen 
out and were in a group on the right front ; some of them 
and most of the men had lain down. At the moment that 

^ See page 148. 

2 This enemy was the 2nd Cavalry Division, with two Jdger battalions. 
(Poseck, p. 55.) 




fire was opened, the rear company was moving off to the 26 Au 
left to extend the Une ; it was caught, as were most of the ^^^'^ 
men of other companies who were standing up, and Lieut. - 
Colonel A. M. Dykes was killed. The regimental transport, 
which was just arriving with rations, turned and stampeded, 
knocking over the brigadier and his brigade-major. The 
companies were at once ordered to lie down and all men 
who could safely use their rifles opened fire at about 
eight hundred yards range upon the German machine guns, 
with immediate effect. Five minutes later, however, two 
or three German batteries came into the open between 
Wambaix and Cattenieres railway station, unlimbered, and 
speedily picking up the range, poured upon the unlucky 
King's Own a storm of shells, which thinned their already 
depleted ranks still further. Two companies of the War- 
wickshire from the reserve, by direction of a staff officer, 
swarmed up the hill to extricate them, but were swept back 
upon reaching the crest with very heavy loss. For some 
twenty minutes this storm of shells burst over the King's 
Own, after which the fire of guns and machine guns 
slackened, and the survivors of the battalion moved away 
to their right into the shelter of a country lane, running east 
and west, from which they opened fire with such effect that 
the machine guns were smothered. A few men from the 
rear of the mass, who had sought shelter in the ravine, rallied 
and rejoined their comrades ; and the King's Own, though 
reduced by some four hundred casualties, recovered them- 
selves with commendable rapidity. 

The Germans then turned their fire upon portions of 
the right wing of the Lancashire Fusiliers, to the west of 
the King's Own ; and soon German mounted men came 
out into the open, only to give place to a considerable body 
of infantry ^ in the space between Wambaix and Cattenieres. 
The Lancashire Fusiliers brought their two machine guns 
into action, and thovigh one of these became jammed at 
once, the other did good execution. But the enemy, having 
a far greater number of machine guns — it was estimated 
that they had twenty-three in this quarter of the field alone 
at this time ^ — and being consequently able to use them 
with greater freedom, now crept away to the left flank of 
the Lancashire Fusiliers, and enfiladed them with deadly 

^ Dismounted men of the 2nd Cavalry Division and Jdger. (Poseck, 
p. 56.) 

" Twenty-one, according to Poseck, p. 56 : the guns of the 4th M.G. 
Abteilung and two Jdger battalions. 


effect. Two companies of Inniskilling Fusiliers had 
already come up from Longsart to prolong the line of the 
Lancashire Fusiliers, one upon the eastern and the other 
upon the western flank ; but the latter was at once en- 
gaged with German dismounted cavalry. There were signs 
also of the development of a hostile attack upon the front 
and western flank of Esnes, where the two remaining com- 
panies of the Inniskilling Fusiliers were already disposed 
for defence. Against them, across a cornfield that had 
recently been cut, advanced the 7th Jdger, in open order, 
apparently without any suspicion that a foe was near. As 
soon as the Inniskillings opened fire the Germans took cover 
behind the corn-stooks. These availed them little, and 
after a time they ran back, leaving forty-seven dead in front 
of one of the companies w^hen its commander in the lull that 
ensued went out to count them. Thus for at least an hour 
and a half the 12th Brigade held its own against the 2nd 
Cavalry Division and two Jdger battalions, backed by 
artillery and numerous machine guns. 

At length about 8.45 a.m. the German progress towards 
Wambaix, round the left flank of the advanced line, had 
gone so far that a retirement seemed to Br. -General H. F. M. 
Wilson imperative. The King's Own on the right were the 
first to be sent to the south side of the Warnelle ravine ; 
to cover this movement, two companies of the Warwick- 
shire (10th Brigade) were ordered to deliver a counter-attack 
from Haucourt upon the ridge to the north of Longsart. 
The 1/Hampshire, of the 11th Brigade, pushed forward two 
platoons to protect the Warwickshire's right flank, where- 
upon a German battery moved up and unlimbered close 
to the railway station just south of Cattenieres. The 
Hampshire men, after taking the range, opened rapid fire 
at a thousand and fifty yards, and within a minute the 
battery turned and galloped away to seek shelter. This 
little incident, though a triumph for British musketry, could 
not of course affect the main issue. The Warwickshire 
again reached the crest of the ridge, and so gained some little 
respite for the King's Own, but they suffered severely from 
the fire of artillery and machine guns and were forced to fall 
back. The Lancashire Fusiliers, covered by the fire of two 
companies of the Essex on the Haucourt — Esnes road, were 
the last to go ; not without difficulty, for the Germans were 
within three hundred yards of them. They rallied on the 
ridge to the south. The company of the Essex on their 
immediate left had retired a little earlier ; but that of the 


Inniskillings on the right withdrew with them, with the 26 Aug. 
exception of the left platoon, which remained where it had i^^*- 
fought, amid a circle of German dead, with not a single man 
un wounded. The withdrawal of the 12th Brigade across 
the valley to the line Ligny — Esnes was now practically 

Meanwhile, the artillery of the 4th Division had come 
into action. At 5.30 a.m., immediately on the issue of the 
divisional operation orders sent out on receipt of General 
Smith-Dorrien's message, the C.R.A., Br.-General G. F. 
Milne, ordered his brigades to reconnoitre positions : the 
XXXVII. (Howitzer) and XXXII. Brigades R.F.A. to the 
east of the Iris stream, and the XIV, and XXIX. to the 
west of it ; the two last at once to take up positions of 
readiness south-east of Esnes. Shortly afterwards, they 
came into action : the XXXII. and XXIX. Brigades 
detailed to co-operate with the 11th Brigade, and the XIV. 
with the 12th Brigade. 

The XXXII. Brigade was brought into action as rapidly 
as possible, as the 11th Brigade was asking for artillery 
support to divert from it some of the German gun fire to 
which it was being subjected. The 27th Battery un- 
limbered in the open to the west of Ligny, the 134th in a 
covered position on higher ground immediately to the 
south-west of the village, with the 135th, also under cover, 
to the left rear of the 27th. 

The XXIX. Brigade took up its position south-east of 
Haucourt. Of the XIV., the 68th Battery came into action 
at once just south-west of the village, the 39th three- 
quarters of a mile in rear, with the 88th in the valley-head 
to the east of St. Aubert Farm. The XXXVII. (Howitzer) 
unlimbered in the Iris valley, but did not open fire from this 
position. The heavy battery, as already noted, was not 

The fire of the XIV. Brigade gained time for the 12th 
Brigade to rally ; and then the enemy came on, against the 
Lancashire Fusiliers, just as the British would have desired 
— in bunches, firing from the hip. A burst of rapid fire 
from a hastily formed line speedily brought the advance to 
a standstill, and the Lancashire Fusiliers took advantage 
of the lull to re-form on a better position a short distance in 
rear. The German artillery now redoubled its fire ; but 
between 9,30 and 10 a.m. the worst of the surprise attack 
was over, and Br.-General Wilson was able to reconstitute 
his line along a front from Ligny through Haucourt to 


Esnes, already occupied by part of the 10th Brigade. 
Br. -General J. A. L. Haldane, warned to secure the left 
flank of the division, indeed of the whole B.E.F., moved the 
R. Irish Fusihers to a ridge south-east of Esnes, marked by 
St. Aubert Farm and Point 137, and later despatched the 
Seaforth to take a position in echelon to the Fusiliers. On 
this ridge the new position of the two brigades assumed 
the shape almost of a semicircle, with its convex side to the 
enemy. The units were very much mixed, and it is im- 
possible to say precisely where parts of them were placed. 

By 11 A.M. the firing in this quarter of the field had died 
down. The German attack, delivered by a force of cavalry 
and Jdger, with a very powerful backing of artillery, had 
been repulsed, although the 12th Brigade had been forced 
back to the south side of the Warnelle ravine, and had 
suffered heavy casualties, chiefly owing to the mishap to 
the King's Own. The cavalry and the cyclists of the 4th 
Division, had they been available, would undoubtedly have 
prevented this surprise. Even as things were, the division 
had succeeded in holding its own. Moreover, if the Ger- 
mans hoped to pin it to its ground, they had failed ; for 
there was nothing now to prevent the 4th Division from 
continuing its retirement if it so desired. 

During this period the 11th Brigade became isolated to 
a certain extent, on its left owing to the retirement of 
the 12th Brigade and, on its right, by the distance which 
separated it from the 7th Brigade ; but it held on with the 
greatest tenacity. Its position, it may be recalled, was 
on the Caudry plateau to the north of the Warnelle ravine, 
astride the " Quarry " knoll and extending thence south- 
west across the railway to the edge of the plateau, its 
general front being towards the north-west. Before part 
of this front, notably on the northern slope of the " Quarry" 
knoll, there was a natural glacis, but further to the west the 
field of fire was bad. The enemy, of course, avoided the 
glacis, and preferred to work round both flanks of the 
brigade and attack along the line of the railway from the 
west and from the southern margin of Fontaine au Pire 
from the north-east. But though the Germans brought up 
battery after battery, until the line of their guns extended 
from Wambaix to the north of Fontaine,^ and swept the 
plateau with them and with machine guns, the bombard- 

^ The artillery of the IV. Reserve Corps was sent up ahead of its 
infantry, and the whole of its batteries came into action between 11.10 
and 11.30 a.m. to assist the Cavalry Corps. ("Res. F.A. Regt. No. 7," p. 28.) 


ment was not followed by the advance of infantry in large 26 Aug. 
bodies. After a time the East Lancashire were compelled ^^i** 
to retire from the northern slope of the " Quarry " to a 
sunken road upon the southern slope, and there they 
remained. The Rifle Brigade and two companies of the 
Somerset Light Infantry, on the right of the East Lanca- 
shire, also held their ground, though heavily shelled. 
They were rewarded occasionally by the sight of German 
infantry striving to advance over the stubble, and seized 
every opportunity of cutting them down by rapid fire. 

More than once small parties of the 11th Brigade were 
forced out of the more exposed positions by the rain of 
shrapnel ; but they always reoccupied them, or were re- 
placed by supports from the Warnelle ravine. Once the 
Hampshire, on the left of the line, essayed a counter- 
attack, but it proved too costly. The Germans dealt with 
it by fire, and then waited ; they had an overwhelming 
force of artillery ; they had brought forward their machine 
guns with much skill ; and they might reasonably reckon 
that the 11th Brigade would soon retire and abandon the 
position without bitter fighting, or, better still, cling to it 
too long, and be surrounded. Here, therefore, as on the 
remainder of the left wing, there was a deadlock. 

So far General Smith-Dorrien had held his ground 
successfully for some six hours ; and, except immediately 
west of Le Cateau, his line was not only unbroken but 
unshaken. Even there the enemy had not immediately 
pressed home the advantages which he had gained. But 
the situation was rapidly growing more serious. To that 
critical point we must now return. 

German Plans for the 26th August 1914 

" The First Army orders for the 26th were based on the two ideas 
" of continuing the pursuit south-westwards by forced marclies, and 
" of widening the front. Report was made to the Supreme Command 
" that the intention was ' to bar the retreat of the enemy between 
" ' Cambrai and St. Quentin.' " (G.O.A., i. p. 521.) 

The situation as it appeared to the Germans at night is fully Map 3. 
disclosed by Kluck's operation orders issued at 10.50 p.m. on the 
25th August. In them he ordered " the continuation of the pursuit 
" of the beaten enemy " in a general south-westerly direction : — his 
right, the //. Corps, \'ia Cambrai on Bapaume ; the IV. Reserve Corps 
(then at Valenciennes) starting early, via Vendegies to Cattenieres ; 
the IV. Corps via Caudry and Montay to Vendhuille ; the ///. Corps 


via Le Cateau to Maretz. The IX. Corps was still in rear observing 
the western front of Maubeuge and protecting the lines of com- 
munication against sorties from the fortress ; it was to send any 
troops it could spare after the III. Corps. " The commander of the 
" //. Cavalry Corps had reported that on the 26th he wished to 
" continue the pursuit on Bohain (10 miles south by west of Le 
" Cateau). With this the First Army agreed." ^ It was Kluck's 
intention to envelop the British on both flanks. From his own 
account, he seems to have been under a complete misconception of 
the situation in the morning. He thought, when it was found that 
the British were not retiring, that they were holding a more or less 
north and south position (he ordered " the IV. Corps to envelop 
" the northern ; the ///. Corps the southern flank of the position "), 
and were trying " to draw off in a westerly direction " ; and he 
lost sight of the I. Corps altogether. Possibly, the extension of the 
British front westwards by the newly arrived 4th Division helped 
to mislead him. Further, that front at nightfall on the 25th had 
been established by contact on the line Landrecies — Solesmes facing 
north-east ; and the move of the 4th Division from Solesmes during 
the night, practically in contact with the Germans, was south-west. 
Possibly he thought the whole force was following the same direction. 
This, of course, fitted in with his preconceived idea that the British 
Expeditionary Force was based on Ostend, Dunkirk and Calais. 

In the German Second Army, Biilow also issued operation orders 
that " on the 26th the pursuit of the beaten enemy should be con- 
" tinned in a south-westerly direction with the greatest possible 
" energy." As he had to leave the VII. Corps to observe the eastern 
side of Maubeuge, the X. Reserve Corps now became his right. This 
corps only reached IMarbaix on the 26th and did not get into contact 
with the British until it struck the rear guard of the I. Corps, the 
1st (Guards) Brigade, at Etreux on the 27th. 

^ The orders in Poseck, p. 55, are for the II. Cavalry Corps to move 
due south against the great Roman road : 

2nd Cavalry Divisioyi, with 4th and 7ih Jdger, via Carniferes — Esnes 

(practically Wanibaix). 
9th Cavalry Division, with 3rd, 9th and 10th Jdger, via Beauvois. 
4th Cavalry Division, via Caudry (due south of Quievy). 



From Noon till 5 p.m. 

(Sketch 7 ; Maps 3, 10 & 11) 

Shortly after noon the situation of the Suffolk and of Sketch 7. 
the batteries supporting them, on the right of the hne, ^ap^s lo 
became serious under the German enfilade fire. The 108th 
Heavy Battery, in action well behind the right flank, had 
silenced one troublesome group of guns near Croix ; but, 
despite this piece of good shooting, the hostile artillery 
still far outmatched the British. ^ Reserves there were 
none, except the four battahons of the 19th Brigade ; of 
these the Cameronians and Royal Welch Fusiliers, in view 
of the enemy's movement on Ligny, had at 10 a.m. been 
moved away westwards to Montigny, behind the left flank 
of the II. Corps ; a part of the Argyll and Sutherland High- 
landers had already been thrown into the fight ; ^ and only 
the remainder of this battalion, together with the 1 /Middle- 
sex, was available on the right. By the orders of Major- 
General L. G. Drummond, commanding the brigade, two 
half-companies of the Argylls, with the battalion machine 

^ Apparently the greater part of the artillery of the German 5th and 
7th Divisions was in action against the 5th Division. " F.A. Regt. No. 18 " 
{5th Division), p. 21, states that the division deployed for action about 
11 A.M. and one of its artillery brigades " had to be given up to the IV. 
" Corps, which was engaged in a hard fight," whilst one battery of the 
other brigade was attached to the 6th Division. The regimental commander 
was wounded. " Regt. No. 26 " {7th Division), pp. 57-8, gives the interest- 
ing information that the artillery of the 5th Division about 12.25 p.m. fired 
on one of its own battalions and on other infantry of the IV. Corps, because 
" troops of the ///. Corps put up artillery screens, painted black-white-red 
" on the rear side, in order to make clear their position to the artillery. 
" As our corps did not show their screens, the III. Corps artillery believed 
" it had the enemy in front of it." The fire received was '" heavy and loss- 
" bringing." The regiment was also fired on by its own corps artillery, 
" which did not suppose the attackers had got so far forward." 

* See page 161. 




guns, were now sent up the track which ran over the ridge 
to the right rear of the Suffolk ; and the 1 /Middlesex moved 
forward into position upon the right of the Highlanders. 
The only reassuring feature in the situation of the 5th 
Division was that the Germans were not pushing their way 
up the valley of the Selle past the right flank of the 14th 
Brigade with the rapidity and vigour that might have been 
expected. Whether the German ///. Corps had been slow 
in following its advanced troops, or, as it came upon the 
field, had been diverted from Le Cateau westward, in 
support of the frontal attack on the 14th and 13th Brigades, 
was unknown,^ In any case, the detachment of the Argyll 
and Sutherland Highlanders, seeing no German troops in 
the valley, turned its machine guns at long range on to 
the ridge east of Le Cateau. This drew the fire of the 
German artillery, which put both the machine guns out of 
action. But, at the moment, the danger lay not in the 
east but in the north. About noon. General Smith- 
Dorrien again visited 5th Division headquarters, and dis- 
cussed with Sir Charles Fergusson the question of holding 
on or retiring. As the Germans were so near, it was thought 
that a counter-attack would be necessary to disengage, and 
the decision to retire was, temporarily, postponed. 

Shortly before 1 p.m.. Sir Charles Fergusson from his 
lookout in Reumont village could see that the right of his 
division was shaken and might shortly give way, and he 
reported in that sense to corps headquarters. A little 
later he added that a German division ^ was working round 
his right from Bazuel. Finally at 1.20 p.m. he suggested 
that unless material assistance could be sent to him he had 
better begin retiring. It seems to have been about this 
time, during a lull in the German fire, that the teams of the 
11th Battery came up to the guns, and got five of them 
away, that of the sixth being shot down. The teams of 
the 80th and 37th Batteries also came forward, and brought 
away five of the guns and four of the howitzers ; another 
howitzer as will be seen was recovered later on. But these 
three batteries were saved at the cost of the teams of the 

1 For what had happened to the German III. Corps, see Note I. at 
end of Chapter IX. 

2 This was thought to be the head of the 5th Division of the III. Corps, 
but must have been the 165th Regiment of the 7th Division (in the same 
brigade as the 27th). This regiment went over the high ground east of 
Le Cateau, deployed south of the Le Cateau — Maubeuge railway and then, 
about 4 P.M., turned towards Honnechy, which it reached as the last British 
were leaving the village (p. 25 of its history). 


52nd, whose guns had consequently to be abandoned. The 26 Aug. 
gunners of this battery were ordered to retire, but a few 1914. 
remained and managed to keep one gun in action. Some- 
what later, the teams of the 122nd Battery galloped up 
through the line of the West Kent, in brigade reserve, who 
stood up and cheered them loudly as they dashed between 
their trenches and onward down the slope towards their 
guns. As they came within view of the enemy, they were 
struck by a hurricane of shrapnel and of bullets from the 
machine guns in the Cambrai road ; but still they went on. 
The officer in charge of the teams was killed, and one team 
shot down in a heap before the position was reached ; but 
two guns of the 122nd Battery were carried off without 
mishap. A third was limbered up, but the horses went 
down instantly. It was an extraordinary sight : a short 
wild scene of galloping and falling horses, and then four 
guns standing derelict, a few limbers lying about, one on 
the skyline with its pole vertical, and dead men and dead 
horses everywhere. It was then decided to abandon the 
remaining guns, as also those of the 124th and 123rd 
Batteries, which were in an even more exposed position, 
the breech-blocks being first removed and the sights 
smashed. Altogether, twenty-four field guns and a howitzer 
were lost in this part of the field ; considering that the 
batteries were practically in the firing line, it is astonishing 
that any were rescued ; the feat redounds to the eternal 
honour of the officers and men of the 5th Division 

It was now about 2 p.m. At 1.40 p.m., in response to 
the 1.20 P.M. message. General Smith-Dorrien had placed 
his two remaining battalions, the Cameronians and the 
Royal Welch Fusiliers, at Sir Charles Fergusson's disposal, 
ordering them to move from Montigny to Bertry, and asking 
him to hold his ground at any rate a little longer, so as 
to allow the preliminary movements of the retirement 
to take effect ; he was to begin the withdrawal of the 
5th Division as soon as he should think fit : after which 
the 3rd and 4th Divisions were to follow in succession. 
General Smith-Dorrien had already summoned to his 
headquarters the G.S.0.1 of the 4th Division — to which 
he was, about midday, connected by signal cable — to 
receive orders. These were to the same effect as those 
given to the 5th Division. Roads were allotted for the 
retirement to the north-west of St. Quentin, when it should 
take place, as follows : — 


Map 3. To the 5th Division and 19th Brigade : 

(1) via Bertry — Maretz, and thence the Roman road to 

Vermand ; 

(2) via Reumont — Maurols — Busigny — Bohain — Bran- 

court — Joncourt — Bellenglise. 

To the 3rd Division, via Montigny — Clary — Ehncourt — 
Mahncourt (east of the Church) — Beaurevoir — Gouy — Bony — 
Hargicourt — Jeancourt. 

To the 4th Division, via Selvigny — Mahncourt (west of the 
Church) — Aubencheul— Ronssoy — Templeux — Roisel. 

To the Cavalry, any roads west of the 4th Division. 

The pressure upon the British line immediately west 
of Le Cateau now became severe, and it seemed clear that 
the Germans were preparing for a great effort. Before 
the teams of the 122nd Battery advanced, three platoons 
of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had twice made 
gallant attempts to reach the trenches of the Suffolk, 
but had been beaten back with severe loss by artillery 
and machine-gun fire. They rallied under the protection 
of the 59th Field Company R.E., which gave up its trenches 
to them and lay down in the open. So intense, in fact, 
was the machine-gun fire upon the whole ridge to the rear 
of the Suffolk that the Highlanders had to abandon the 
line which they had taken up, and move further down 
the slope towards the valley of the Selle. Meanwhile, the 
German battalions were steadily gaining ground ; in fact, 
as the last gun team of the 5th Division artillery was driv- 
ing off, as described above, they were only four hundred 
yards from it, and were only kept back for a time by a party 
of the Manchester, which, with the machine-gun detach- 
ment, offered so stout a resistance as to gain a few minutes' 
respite. During this brief interval. Captain D. Reynolds 
of the 37th Battery, having obtained permission to call 
for volunteers, came galloping down with teams to rescue 
the two howitzers which had been left on the ground. 
The German infantry was then within two hundred yards, 
yet by the gallantry and devotion of this little party both 
howitzers were limbered up ; and though one team was 
shot down before it could move, the other galloped off 
with its howitzer and brought it safely away. 

This episode was the last gleam of light upon this gloomy 
corner of the field. ^ Between 2.30 and 2.45 p.m. the end came. 
The Germans had by this time accumulated an overwhelm- 

^ It gained the Victoria Cross for Captain Reynolds and for Drivers 
Luke and Drain. Captain Reynolds was killed by gas near Ypres, 1916. 


ing force in the shelter of the Cambrai road, and they now 26 Aug. 
fell upon the Suffolk and Manchester from the front, right i^^'*- 
flank and right rear. The turning movement, however, 
did not at once make itself felt, and the two battalions and 
the Argylls with them opened rapid fire to their front with 
terrific effect, two officers of the Highlanders, in particular, 
bringing down man after man and counting their scores 
aloud as if at a competition. The Germans kept sounding 
the British " Cease fire " and gesticulating to persuade the 
men to surrender, but in vain. At length a rush of the 
enemy from the rear bore down all resistance. The Suffolk 
and Manchester and their Highland comrades were over- 
whelmed. They had for nine hours been under an in- 
cessant bombardment, and they had fought to the very 
last, covering themselves with undying glory. 

Meanwhile orders had been issued about 2 p.m.^ by 
Sir Charles Fergusson for the retirement of the 5th Division 
to begin, but these do not appear to have reached any 
battalion much before 3 p.m. It was comparatively easy 
to communicate with brigades, but nearly impossible to get 
messages to the firing line, as the fighting there was almost 
hand-to-hand, and the ground in rear was swept by shell 
fire. Further, the 14th Brigade was handicapped by the 
loss of its signal section, which had been practically de- 
stroyed in the early morning fighting in Le Cateau. As a 
result no orders at all reached Lieut. -Colonel R. C. Bond 
and the companies of the K.O. Y.L.I, in the firing line. 
The survivors of the Suffolk and the Manchester (14th) 
and the Argylls (19th) had drifted back towards Reu- 
mont ; thus the right of the K.O.Y.L.I., which faced 
eastwards, became heavily engaged with German infantry 
advancing over the ridge which the Suffolk had held. 
First two battalions in dense masses swept over the crest 
and down the beetroot-field on its western slopes. The 
Yorkshiremen — five platoons with two machine guns — 
allowed them to move well down the slope and then opened 
rapid fire, which drove the enemy back with heavy loss to 
the reverse side of the ridge. Meanwhile, the Duke of 
Wellington's and West Kent (13th Brigade) had begun to 
retire from the right rear of the K.O.Y.L.L, as did also 
the East Surrey, conforming to the movement of the West 
Kent; whilst the Scottish Borderers (13th) on the other flank 
of the brigade were also beginning to fall back. When, 

^ No records or messages of this period are available, as the 5th Division 
headquarters wagon was hit and blown up in Reumont. 


therefore, shortly after their first advance, the Germans re- 
appeared on the crest of the ridge, they could outflank the 
right of the K.O.Y.L.I. This they proceeded to do, pro- 
gressing slowly and warily, after the lessons which they 
had received, throwing out troops wide to the south-east 
so as completely to envelop the K.O.Y.L.I. 's right rear. 
The five platoons and the machine guns once again found 
a good target at five hundred yards range and took full 
advantage of it ; but the Germans now pressed home their 
attack on the main front of the battalion from the Cambrai 
road, and on its left flank from the ground vacated by the 
Scottish Borderers. Although the left, by sheer marks- 
manship, was able to prevent the enemy from planting 
machine guns on the last-named ground, its occupation 
by increasing numbers of the enemy, who at once opened 
a destructive enfilade fire, could not be prevented. A 
desperate effort was made to reinforce this flank, but nearly 
every man sent forward was shot down ; and the enemy 
now set himself systematically to roll up the attenuated 
line of Yorkshiremen from left to right. In spite of the 
gallant efforts of Major C. A. L. Yate,^ who commanded the 
firing line, the end came soon afterwards. The company 
with him had lost over sixty men killed outright and many 
wounded, and the other companies had suffered equally ; 
when therefore about 4.30 p.m. the final rush of the enemy 
took place, the survivors were overpowered and made 
prisoners. That night the 2/K.O.Y.L.I. mustered only 8 
officers and 320 rank and file, but it had held up the 
Germans at the only point where they penetrated into the 
British position, and thus gave the rest of the 5th Division 
a clear start in their retirement. 

Whilst the advance of the enemy through the gap im- 
mediately to the west of Le Cateau had thus been delayed 
by a single battalion, the progress of his outflanking move- 
ment to the east of the town was also checked. Three 
platoons of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, it will 
be remembered, had moved down the western slope of the 
valley of the Selle ; here they found the 59th Field Com- 
pany R.E. ; and in the course of time, half the 1/Middle- 
sex, with two companies of the 1/Scots Fusiliers (which 
had joined the 19th Brigade on the night of the 25th from 
the 9th Brigade reserve) prolonged the line to the right. 

^ Major Yate was awarded a posthumous V.C. He escaped from 
his prison camp in Germany and was found near BerUn with his throat 


Towards 3 p.m. German troops ^ were seen advancing 26 Aug. 
westwards over the spur on the eastern side of the valley ; ^^^'*- 
whereupon the Middlesex, Highlanders and Royal En- 
gineers opened fire at fifteen hundred yards range, and 
effectually turned them back. Thus the Germans were 
held for a time both to the east and west of Le Cateau, and 
General Smith-Dorrien's dispositions, now in progress, to 
cover the retreat on this side had ample time to take effect. 
The long valley that runs up from Le Cateau southwards 
to Honnechy had been since 9 a.m. under the observation 
of the 1st Cavalry Brigade and E Battery, posted between 
Escaufourt and Honnechy, these troops having retired to 
that position, where they found L Battery in action, at 
the close of their first engagement with the enemy about 
Bazuel. At 1.15 p.m. the D.C.L.I., and the two companies 
of the East Surrey which were with them, were ordered 
from the reserve of the 5th Division ^ to Honnechy ; about 
2 P.M. the 2/Royal Welch Fusiliers and 1/Scottish Rifles 
of the 19th Brigade, General Smith-Dorrien's only corps 
reserve, now at the disposal of the 5th Division, were 
directed to march from Bertry, and to post themselves on 
the left of the Duke of Cornwall's at Maurois ; and the 
1 /Norfolk w^as sent back from the " Tree " on the Sunken 
Road to Reumont. Lastly, a section of the 108th Heavy 
Battery was ordered to take up a position near Honnechy ; 
though one gun was unfortunately upset going through a 
gateway with a little bridge over a ditch and had to be 
abandoned, the other safely reached the place assigned to 
it. By 3 P.M., or very little later, the whole of these troops 
were in position behind the right flank : it only remained 
to be seen how vigorously the enemy would follow up his 
success. At 3.47 p.m. the II. Corps reported to G.H.Q. by 
a telegram, received at 3.50 p.m., that the retirement had 

Towards 3.30 p.m. Germans again showed themselves 
on the eastern side of the Selle, this time in extended order, 
so that the rifles and machine guns of the party of Argyll 
and Sutherland Highlanders had not the same chance 
against them as before. But, as they advanced, they were 
met by the shells of E and L Batteries, and, after working 
their way south for a time, took shelter under cover of 
the railway embankment, and there came to a temporary 
standstill. The 1/Middlesex on the Highlanders' right 
next withdrew up the valley of the Rivierette des Essarts 
1 The 165th Regiment (see page 172, f.n. 2). * ggg page 159. 



towards Reumont ; and the Argylls, being warned that the 
Germans were crossing the Roman road in their left rear, 
fell back to the spur which runs south-east from Reumont, 
where they found a mixed body of Manchesters and other 
units deployed, and took up position alongside them. The 
Germans had by this time — about 4.30 p.m. — brought up 
guns to engage the British batteries near Escaufourt and 
were advancing up the valley of the Rivierette des Essarts; 
but their losses were heavy and their progress slow. An 
aeroplane detected the position of E and L Batteries, but 
the consequent German fire does not appear to have done 
any great damage. There was no sign of German cavalry 
hurrying forward in masses to the pursuit, and there 
seemed to be a good prospect that darkness would fall 
before the enemy could close with the rear guards retiring 
from the valley of the Selle.^ 

Immediately to the west of Le Cateau in the 13th 
Brigade area, the enemy had equally failed to press his 
advantage ; the shells of the 61st Howitzer Battery and 
108th Heavy Battery constantly broke up the German 
infantry when it tried to reassemble and re-form. The 
2/Duke of Wellington's was certainly heavily shelled as 
it retired, but suffered little harm, though the battalion 
became widely scattered. The West Kent fell back slowly 
and methodically, and their rear guard saw nothing to 
shoot at except a German company which showed itself 
for a few minutes passing eastward through the abandoned 
guns of the XV. Brigade R.F.A. more than a thousand 
yards away. Between 4.30 and 5 p.m. this rear guard 
retired in extended order without molestation even by 
artillery. The Scottish Borderers withdrew in the same 
way, though the order to retire unfortunately did not 
reach the greater part of one company, which was sur- 
rounded and captured. Near the " Tree " on the Sunken 
Road at least one company halted for the best part of an 
hour, and fired with great effect upon German infantry 
nine hundred yards to its right. Between 4.15 and 5 p.m. 
the battalion fell back by successive companies to Trois- 
villes, and then turned to cover the retreat of the 15th 
Brigade which was falling back in perfect order. Thus on 
the right of the line, the most critical point of all, things 
had not gone altogether ill in the first and most difficult 
stage of the retreat. 

^ No orders for pursuit were issued by Kluck until 8.13 p.m., and these 
directed the line Esnes — Caudry — Reumont to be crossed at 4 a.m. next day. 


Until a little past noon, on the right centre of the line, 26 Aug. 
the Bedfordshire and Dorsetshire in the firing line of the i^^'*- 
15th Brigade, the left of the 5th Division, saw little or^^^^tchT. 
nothing of the enemy, except at a distance ; and even then ^^ ' 
they could perceive only small parties on the Cambrai road 
(which at this point except for one small house offered 
no shelter to the enemy) bringing up what appeared to 
be stretchers — but actually were machine guns carried 
by their folding legs. As soon as the real nature of their 
burdens was discovered they were engaged by the machine 
guns of the Dorsetshire, and the detachments, one of which 
endeavoured to take shelter in the small house, shot down ^ 
before they could come into action. Later on the German 
infantry showed itself in front in greater force, but was so 
hotly received by the Bedfordshire and Dorsetshire, as well 
as by the batteries of the XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. that it 
would not venture upon a definite attack. Soon after 
3 P.M. the order to retire was received by the 15th Brigade, 
and it was calmly and systematically obeyed. The 119th 
Battery was withdrawn first, and moved back to the spur 
just south of the " Tree " on the Sunken Road. About 
3.30 P.M. the Bedfordshire and Dorsetshire fell back slowly 
in succession covered by the machine guns of the latter, 
and, together with the 121st Battery, faced about again at 
the south-eastern angle of Troisvilles. Germans had not 
yet crossed the Cambrai road on their front, having been 
checked by the rifle fire, at long range, of the right com- 
pany of the Fifth Fusiliers (9th Brigade) ; but the enemy's 
artillery now concentrated a very heavy fire upon Trois- 
villes from the north and north-east, and, gradually finding 
the range, compelled this company, as well as the Scottish 
Borderers on its right, to retire once more. The 121st 
Battery was only limbered up with difficulty, but the 
Dorsetshire, well covered by their machine guns, got back 
to the southern end of Troisvilles with little loss. A 
German aeroplane now appeared over their heads, dropping 
smoke signals, and the German gunners guided by these 
put down a barrage of shrapnel on every road and track 
leading to the south. The Scottish Borderers, who had 
taken the road towards Reumont, were diverted from it 
to the open country further west. The Dorsetshire and 
the Bedfordshire broke into small parties and, passing 

^ Three infantry regiments of the 8th Division were endeavouring to 
reach the road on the front Inchy and east of it — Caudry, mamly against 
the 3rd Division. 


through the barrage with httle or no damage, headed south 
across country towards Maurois. Bedfordshire, Dorsetshire, 
Cheshire (15th Brigade reserve) and Scottish Borderers all 
entered the Roman road near Reumont or Maurois without 
the slightest pressure of German cavalry or infantry upon 
their rear. Only on their right — towards Le Cateau — had 
the enemy pushed on in any force ; and his advance there 
had been delayed as has already been described. 

The withdrawal of the 5th Division from a broad and 
scattered front on to a single road at right angles thereto 
naturally brought as a consequence a thorough mix-up 
of all units — except in the case of the 15th Brigade, which 
entered it as a formed body. This state of affairs the 
Staff, as will be later narrated, took steps to remedy as 
soon as possible ; but the enemy was too close for any 
immediate attempt at re-forming to be made. There was, 
to quote one eye-witness, " confusion, but no disorganiza- 
tion ; disorder, but no panic " ; while another has exactly 
caught the scene by saying that it reminded him of a crowd 
leaving a race m.eeting and making its way earnestly 
towards a railway station. 

Sketch 7. On the left of the 15th Brigade in the 3rd Division 
Map 11. sector, the 9th had been perfectly secure. The enemy had 
established himself on the southern edge of Inchy, but had 
been unable to advance a yard further ; and, though Br.- 
General F. C. Shaw's battalions had had little opportunity 
of using their rifles, the XXIII. Brigade R.F.A. had inflicted 
very severe loss on the German infantry. Soon after 3 p.m. 
the brigadier observed that the troops on his right were 
retreating ; though it was plain that the Germans were not 
following them in any strength, he was relieved when orders 
reached him, at 3.30 p.m., to conform with the movement. 
Pushing up the Royal Fusiliers from the reserve to the 
north-western edge of Troisvilles, he brought away nearly 
all his wounded, after which he withdrew deliberately in 
succession the Fifth Fusiliers, the two companies of the 
R. Scots Fusiliers and the Lincolnshire with very trifling loss. 
The German skirmishers lining the southern edge of Inchy 
tried hard to hinder the movement, but were silenced by 
the advanced sections of the 107th and 108th Batteries. 
Although the Fifth Fusihers, before they could reach the 
shelter of a hollow near Le Fayt, had to cross a thousand 
yards of open ground, the German artillery scarcely fired 
a round at them. As the last party of the Lincolnshire 


came abreast of the advanced section of the 108th Battery, 26 Aug. 
the officer in command, having fired off his last round of '^^^'^• 
ammunition, disabled and abandoned his guns. This and 
the other advanced section had done great work, but at 
the cost of four 18-pdrs. The retreat was then continued 
methodically, without pressure from the enemy, and the 
battalions re-formed as soon as they reached sheltered 
ground. The XXIII. Brigade R.F.A. was collected at 
Bertry. The 9th Brigade took position on the ridge be- 
tween Bertry and Montigny to cover the retreat of the 
rest of the 3rd Division ; its casualties amounted to hardly 
one hundred and eighty. 

The course of events west of the 9th Brigade is less easy Sketch 7. 
to describe. From noon onwards there was a lull in the ^^^P ^^' 
German fire, and advantage was taken of this to reinforce 
the troops at Caudry with half a company of the Irish 
Rifles. Some of the 12th Brigade likewise seized the oppor- 
tunity to recross to the north side of the Warnelle ravine 
in order to bring in their wounded, but they were driven 
back by a steady fire from the enemy before they could 
collect many of them. Then about 1.40 p.m. the German 
guns opened fire once more with increased violence and in 
much greater numbers,^ concentrating in the first instance 
chiefly on Caudry, while simultaneously German infantry 
advanced against the junction of the Royal Scots and 
Gordon Highlanders immediately to the north of Auden- 
court. They failed however to gain any ground, being met 
by an accurate fire on their front and effectively enfiladed, 
at a range of six hundred yards, by the left company of the 
Gordons. At Caudry itself the enemy was more successful. 
About 2 P.M. he began a bombardment of the village with 
heavy guns, the first shell of which stunned Br. -General 
F. W. N. McCracken and wounded his brigade-major. The 
brigadier was understood to order a retirement, and 
Caudry was evacuated, so that German infantry was able 
to enter and occupy it.^ About the same time large parties 
of enemy infantry^ developed a strong attack from the 
north-west against the half-battalion of the Inniskilling 

^ See page 161, f.n. 1. 

2 The bombardment of the village was by 5-9-inch howitzers. " Regt. 
No. 153," p. 56 (f.n.), quotes the text of the first edition of this volume, 
and says that nothing is known in the 8fh Division of any infantry entering 
Caudry. But the British account, of the counter-attack which retook all 
but the northern part of the village, is circumstantial, and the presence of 
Germans in Caudry is supported by the evidence of the 11th Brigade. 

3 This was the advanced guard of the 7ih Reserve Division, which got 
up at 2 P.M. (see page 184, f.n. 1). 


Fusiliers which covered the western flank at Esnes. They 
were met by rapid rifle and machine-gun fire, supported 
shortly after by artillery. The answering German fire was 
wholly ineffective, and the Inniskillings were able to check 
this attack completely. Nevertheless, the situation was 
not reassuring ; for it was clear that fresh German infantry, 
the herald of another corps, had come up, and that, if it 
failed to break in on the north side of Esnes, it would work 
round to the left flank and rear. 

Meanwhile, between 2.30 and 3 p.m. the 3/Worcester- 
shire (7th Brigade) counter-attacked at Caudry, reoccupied 
the southern portion of the village and pushed advanced 
posts to the north and north-east. But the northern part 
of the village was not recovered, and the Germans had 
already made the 11th Brigade sensible of their presence 
on its right flank. Br.-General A. G. Hunter-Weston, 
naturally assuming that Caudry had been finally lost, de- 
cided to withdraw the 11th Brigade across the Warnelle 
ravine to a position before Ligny. The guns of the 135th 
Battery were brought forward and entrenched in and round 
Ligny for close defence ; and then, the 1 /Rifle Brigade, with 
a platoon of the East Lancashire, being left at the " Quarry " 
as rear guard, the remaining battalions of the brigade were 
shortly after 3 p.m. drawn off into the low ground of the 
ravine whilst a perfect tempest of shrapnel raged above and 
behind them. As they came into sight of the Germans 
again, on the slope just below Ligny, the enemy redoubled 
his fire, inflicting considerable loss, and when at last the 
rear guard withdrew from the " Quarry," the German 
infantrymen^ sprang up from their concealed positions and 
rushed forward in pursuit. Their ranks were instantly torn 
and mangled by the British guns ; but they speedily rallied 
and continued the advance regardless of losses. Before 
the 11th Brigade could be completely re-formed, they 
swarmed forward to the attack of Ligny. Met by shrapnel 
and rapid fire, they turned, unable to persist against the 
hail of bullets. Reinforced, they advanced again, only to 
suffer still more heavily ; for the British were now better 
prepared to receive them. They fell back again, too severely 
punished to find heart for a third attempt, and the 4th 
Division was left in undisputed possession of Ligny. These 
actions hardly came to a complete end before 5 p.m. 

It was during this turmoil on his left that shortly after 

^ The 3rd, 9th and 10th Jdger and 19th Cavalry Brigade, according to 
Poseck, pp. 59, 60. 


3 P.M. General Hubert Hamilton rode down from Bertry 26 Aug. 
to Lieut. -Colonel W. D. Bird, who was with his battalion ^^^^^ 
of Irish Rifles at Troncquoy, and directed him to take 
command of the 7th Brigade, since Br.-General McCracken 
had been stunned by a shell, and to withdraw the troops 
from Caudry under cover of the Irish Rifles and two field 
batteries. Colonel Bird made his dispositions accordingly, 
and by 4.30 p.m. the companies which had reoccupied it 
were practically clear of the village. At that hour the 
troops in Audencourt, on the east of Caudry, suddenly fell 
back. About 3.30 p.m. the 8th Brigade had received its 
in^ructions to retire, but there had been difficulty and 
delay in communicating orders to the various units, and 
it is certain that some of them received none at all. The 
4/Middlesex and the Royal Scots, with the exception of a 
detached party of the latter on the immediate right of the 
Gordons, were withdrawn without much difficulty. The 
party above named, together with the bulk of the Gordons, 
and two companies of the Royal Irish, having no orders to 
move, remained in their positions. Three platoons of the 
Gordons, however, heard of the order to retire, and man- 
aged to get away, as also did the reserve companies of the 
Royal Irish. These last were obliged to fight hard to 
extricate themselves and the batteries of the XL. Brigade 
R.F.A. ; ^ but three guns of the 6th Battery were lost, the 
teams being shot down by a lucky salvo whilst in the act of 
withdrawing. Two platoons of the Royal Irish also were 
cut off from their main body, but contrived to make good 
their retreat independently. Meanwhile since 2.30 p.m. 
Audencourt had been furiously bombarded by 4-2-inch 
and 5-9-inch howitzers, and the vehicles and horses of 
8th Brigade headquarters, and the whole of the brigade 
machine guns and transport were lost. The enemy, how- 
ever, made no attempt to advance. The 41st Battery, 
working with Colonel Bird, opened fire on the glacis east 
of Caudry, as soon as our troops were clear of it ; but, so 
far as can be gathered, there was at the time not a single 
German upon this ground. Half an hour later, however, at 
5 P.M. the German infantrymen did swarm forward, toiling 
painfully up a gentle slope through beetroot which reached 
to their knees. Whether they expected opposition or not 
is hard to say, but they were met by the rapid fire of 
the Gordon Highlanders and Royal Scots, who shot them 

^ Their adversaries were two brigades of the 9th Cavalry Division, the 
three of the 4th (Poseck, pp. 61, 62), and the right of the 93rd Regiment. 


down at a range of from four to six hundred yards with 
the greatest coolness. One subaltern of the Roj^al Scots 
reckoned that he hit thirty to forty of them himself. The 
Germans were unable to gain an inch of ground ; for the 
best part of an hour they swayed backwards and forwards 
in front of these few isolated groups, probably exaggerating 
their strength both in men and machine guns, but com- 
pletely at a loss how to clear them out of the way. 

The rest of the 8th Brigade, having re-formed in dead 
ground, took the road to Montigny, and Colonel Bird, 
after waiting for fully twenty minutes without seeing a 
sign either of retreating British or advancing Germans, 
led back the 7th Brigade soon after 5 p.m. by the same road, 
without the slightest interference on the part of the enemy. 

Map 3. Thus by 5 p.m., roughly speaking, the whole of the II. 
Corps had begun its retreat and its rear guards were all in 
position, and the moment had come for the 4th Division, 
which was on its left, to move off. There was no time to 
lose. For, although the right of the division was for the 
moment secure after the double repulse of the German 
attack upon Ligny, masses of the IV. Reserve Corps ^ were 
now arriving from the direction of Cattenieres — Wambaix. 
Sketch 7. The appearance of Sordet's cavalry in the left rear of 
Map 11. ii^Q 4tJi Division now provided a most opportune diversion. 
General Smith-Dorrien had naturally counted on this co- 
operation, and General Sordet, having visited Sir John 
French at 9 a.m., was fully conversant with the situation. 
His corps on the night of the 24th/25th had bivouacked 
near Avesnes — Dompierre, and on the 25th moved more 
than thirty miles across the line of march of the B.E.F. in 
order to reach its left flank. It arrived late at night in 
the neighbourhood of Walincourt, about ten miles west 
by south of Le Cateau, men and horses dog-tired and 
soaked with rain. Of its three divisions, the 5th halted 
for the night in and about Esnes, the 1st at Lesdain and 
the 3rd at Le Bosquet (3 miles south-west of Esnes). The 
corps moved out to the south of Cambrai on the morning 
of the 26th in observation of the ground on the left rear 
of the British and of the southern exits from Cambrai. 

^ The 7th Reserve Division ; see Hauptmann Wirth's " Von der Saale 
zur Aisne." He states that the advanced guard of the division reached 
the Cambrai high road nortli of Cattenieres about 2 p.m. Tlie guns had 
been sent on ahead and were already in action. (See page 168, f.n. 1.) 
He adds that the German " cavalry had been thrown on the defensive and 
several regiments were cowering under cover beliind the houses." 


There, about 1 p.m., General Sordet received the following 26 Aug. 
message from Colonel Huguet of the French Mission at ^^i*- 
G.H.Q.^ : "General Joffre requests that you will not 
" only cover the left of the British Army, but do more Map 3. 
" and intervene in the battle with all the forces at your 
" disposal." At 1.30 p.m., therefore, General Sordet issued 
orders for his three divisions to recross the Schelde, the 
5th at Crevecoeur, the 3rd at Masnieres, and the 1st at 
Marcoing, sending reconnaissance parties ahead. ^ To- 
wards 4 P.M., when the divisions of the German IV. Re- 
serve Corps ^ were crossing the front of the French cavalry, 
the artillery of the latter came successively into action 
and took the Germans in flank, whilst cyclists engaged 
them with success near Seranvillers (2 miles north-west of 
Esnes). It was this gun fire which was heard by General 
Smith-Dorrien about 4.30 p.m. as he was moving south 
from Bertry to his new headquarters at St. Quentin, and, 
not knowing whether the sound came from French or 
German artillery, he had a bad moment. Then, galloping 
up to some high ground near Maretz, he was able to satisfy 
himself that it could only come from French 75's.^ Further, 
beyond the left of the French cavalry, it was known that 
troops of General d'Amade were in and about Cambrai.^ 
All, therefore, seemed well, and the British left flank secure.® 

^ F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 49. The message is recorded as telephoned at 
12.10 P.M. 

2 " Historique du Corps de Cavalerie Sordet," pp. 77-9. 

^ The 22nd Reserve Division had followed the 7th, and advanced on its 

* The action was broken off by General Sordet at 6.30 p.m. and the 
cavalry corps retired so as to cover the British left ; it reached the area 
north-west of Villers Fau9on (15 miles south by west of Cambrai), with 
the horses completely exhausted. [F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 40.] 

5 See Note II at end of Chapter IX. 

8 Lieut. -Colonel F. G. Anley, commanding 2/Essex Regiment on the 
left of the line, received two direct reports from the French cavalry, one 
about ten minutes before the attack opened, and another about noon, 
both saying that the French were maintaining their position. He, most un- 
fortunately, failed to get either of these messages through to 12th Brigade 



(Sketches A, 4, 6 ife 7 ; Maps 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 & 13) 

5 P.M. TO Nightfall 

The party of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (19th 
Brigade),! together with the 59th Field Company R.E. and 
a collection of scattered men, last mentioned as being on 
the right, was deployed upon the spur that runs south- 
eastward from Reumont. The Royal Welch Fusiliers, 
Cameronians (both of the 19th Brigade, from Montigny), 
D.C.L.I. and half the East Surrey (14th Brigade), Norfolk 
(15th Brigade) and one 60-pdr. of the 108th Heavy Battery 
were in rear of it, between Maurois and Honnechy. The 
Bays (1st Cavalry Brigade), with E and L Batteries, were 
at Escaufourt, E Battery being in action against the guns 
which were endeavouring to cover the advance of the German 
infantry up the valley of the Rivierette des Essarts. This 
infantry now extended across the Roman road on the High- 
landers' left front, and, advancing in open order with company 
columns in rear, was engaged by the party at a thousand 
yards range. The enemy made no great progress, for the 
party had plenty of ammunition, and there was no im- 
mediate reason why it should fall back. After a time, 
however — about 5.30 p.m.— Lieut.-Colonel B. E. Ward of 
the 1 /Middlesex (19th Brigade) led his own battalion, which 
had been halted east of Reumont in the valley of the 
Rivierette des Essarts, and the various detachments on 
the spur near by, towards Reumont and the Roman road, 
detailing the Highlanders to act as his rear guard. The 
whole, therefore, moved off in succession, skirting Reumont, 
where German shells were now falling thickly ; the rear 
guard had no sooner quitted its position than the German 

1 See page 176. 

THE 5th division 187 

artillery searched the deserted spur with a hail of shrapnel. 26 Aug. 
A company and a half of the Norfolk, sheltered in a quarry 1914. 
to the south-west of Reumont, were now left as the troops 
nearest to the enemy ; for about this time the cavalry and 
horse artillery also began to fall back slowly from Escau- 
fourt towards Busigny (6 miles S.S.W. of Le Cateau), 
leaving the passage up the valley towards Honnechy open 
to the enemy. The Norfolk opened fire at a range of about 
1,800 yards on the German infantry in extended order to 
the north-east, and in due time retired to the edge of 
Honnechy, passing as they went through a company of the 
R. Welch Fusihers, which had been deployed to take over 
rear guard from them. 

From this point the Norfolk companies had a clearer 
view of German columns, both of infantry and artillery, 
advancing on the road up the valley of the Rivierette, 
preceded by lines of skirmishers. They engaged them at 
long range, and the solitary 60-pdr. of the 108th Heavy 
Battery, having no shrapnel left, opened fire with lyddite. 
Major G. H. Sanders commanding the 122nd Field Battery, 
having followed his two remaining guns to Reumont, col- 
lected two ammunition wagons, unlimbered south of the 
village, and also opened fire on the enemy columns. 

The Germans had by this time advanced up the valley 
to the point where the road from Reumont to St. Souplet 
intersects that from Le Cateau to Busigny ; but there, to 
the great surprise of the Norfolk, they stopped and showed 
themselves no more.^ 

It was now fully 6 p.m. A drizzhng rain had just set 
in, and the light was beginning to fail early. The enemy's 
pursuit seemed to die away. His guns did indeed shell the 
position of the R. Welch Fusiliers ; but, instead of heavy 
masses of infantry, small parties of cavalry now hovered 
about the front, feeling their way forward and provoking 
constant little bursts of fire from the British rear guards, 
which in the meanwhile continued to fall back in succession 
as the Roman road gradually became clear for them. The 
congestion on that road was considerable, for it was packed 

1 It appears from regimental histories that two battalions of the 7th 
Division reached Honnechy just in time to exchange shots with the British 
rear guard. The troops of the division then received orders to halt and 
clear the road for the III. Corps to pursue. But the leading battalion of 
this corps did not reach Honnechy until midnight (" Leib Gren. Regt. 
No. 8," p. 62). Kluck states truly that " the latter [///.] Corps, ordered 
" to march on Maretz, did not get further than Honnechy on the 26th, 
' so that the attempted enveloping movement failed." 


with infantry, guns, transport and ambulances of the 5th 
Division and the 19th Brigade in no fixed order, just as each 
Map 3, unit had happened to strike the highway. There was some 
confusion, but the men marched on steadily and in silence. 
A few units — the 1 /Middlesex and a number of scattered 
men under Lieut. -Colonel H. P. Moulton-Barrett of the 
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders — made their way by two 
parallel tracks, east of the Roman road, to Busigny, where 
the 3rd Cavalry Brigade was in position to cover them, and 
thence turned westward into the Roman road. At 7 p.m. 
or a little later, German cavalry patrols ran into parties of 
the 11th and 19th Hussars north of Busigny, and men of the 
former regiment were shelled while crossing the railway 
near Busigny station. The Duke of Cornwall's L.I., the 
two companies of the East Surrey which were with them, 
the R. Welch Fusiliers and the Cameronians moved back 
steadily from position to position and arrived at Maretz, 
almost without firing a shot ; the Cameronians waited at 
Maretz until 9.30 p.m. without seeing a sign of the enemy. 
Hostile pursuit, worthy of the name, had ceased after 
6 P.M. ; in fact, contact was practically lost as darkness fell. 
The whole of the 5th Division and the 19th Brigade were 
now in retreat along the Roman road ; their right flank, 
which had been exposed all day, was no longer threatened. 

The narrative left the 3rd Division with two companies 
of the Royal Irish, some of the Royal Scots and the greater 
part of the Gordon Highlanders still occupying their original 
ground in front of Audencourt, having received no orders to 
retire, and successfully arresting any German advance ; the 
9th Brigade was in a covering position between Bertry and 
Montigny (2 miles south of Caudry) ; and the bulk of the 
7th and 8th were in orderly retreat on Montigny. These 
Map 3. two latter formations passed through the 9th Brigade 
and marched away to Clary, making south-westwards for 
Beaurevoir (13 miles south-west of Le Cateau) by way of 
Elincourt and Malincourt. Not a German, not even a 
cavalry patrol, follow^ed them ; and not a shell was fired 
at the 9th Brigade, which at 6 p.m. became the rear guard 
to the 3rd Division. Evidently the enemy was wholly 
occupied with the detachments — not a thousand strong, all 
told — which had not retired from the original fighting line. 
At 6 P.M., after an hour spent in vain and costly attempts 
to break through the Gordons, his fire died down, but began 
again twenty minutes later, as he tried to work round the 

THE 3rd and 4th DIVISIONS 189 

right of the Royal Scots. This was however foiled by the 26 Aug. 
oblique fire of the right company of the Gordons, across 1914. 
the front of the Royal Scots ; and at 6.45 p.m. the Germans 
once again concentrated a heavy howitzer bombardment 
upon Audencourt. As darkness came down the firing died 
aAvay into occasional fitful bursts ; but at 8.30 p.m. the 
German guns once more heaped shells upon Audencourt, 
not a little to the wonder of the 3rd Division, which, from 
the heights south of Clary some six miles away, watched 
the projectiles bursting over its deserted position with grim 
satisfaction. Thus the British centre had been withdrawn, 
from under the very eyes of the Germans, with very little 
difficulty and no serious loss. 

In the 4th Division the infantry brigadiers received their Sketch 7. 
orders to retreat about 5 p.m., the 10th Brigade being ''^^^P ^^• 
detailed as rear guard. At that hour the German Jdger 
to the immediate front of the line were still quiescent from 
the effects of their repulse before Ligny ; but the volume 
of hostile artillery fire had continued steadily to increase, 
and the turning movement round the western flank of 
Esnes had been renewed and pressed until the Inniskillings 
had been forced back to the western fringe of the village. 
The units of the 10th and 12th Brigades were so intermixed 
that the transmission of orders was exceedingly difficult ; 
but the sound of General Sordet's guns about Crevecoeur 
(2| miles west of Esnes) gave assurance that the division 
could retire without fear of serious attack on its western 
flank. The R. Irish Fusiliers and Seaforth Highlanders 
were already in position behind this flank, south-west of 
St. Aubert Farm, and, with the 4th Cavalry Brigade further 
east near Selvigny, were thus ready to cover the first stage 
of the retreat. Artillery support was also close at hand, 
for, meantime, Br. -General Milne, having had early warning 
of the intention to break off the action, had made general 
arrangements for the retirement of the artillery to a suc- 
cession of covering positions. After the heavy attack on 
Caudry about 2 p.m. the XXIX. Brigade R.F.A. had re- 
tired to a position in the Iris valley between Caullery and 
Selvigny (2 miles S.S.W. of Ligny), and the XIV. Brigade 
had moved back about the same time to another one 
immediately north of Selvigny. About 4 p.m. the 35th 
(Howitzer) Battery had been ordered back behind the rail- 
way, so as to be prepared to cover the retirement of the 
remainder of its brigade, which was ready to do the same 


service for the XXXII. Brigade, still south-west of Ligny. 
At 4.30 P.M. orders were given for the brigade ammunition 
columns to get clear and join the route of the main column 
at Walincourt (3 miles S.S.W. of Ligny). About 5 p.m. the 
31st and 55th (Howitzer) Batteries were withdrawn to the 
south of Selvigny, where the 35th Battery joined them. 

It is difficult to ascertain which of the infantry was 
the first to be withdrawn ; but it seems that part of the 
12th Brigade, the Essex and the two forward companies 
of the Inniskillings, moved off soon after 5 p.m., halting 
and facing about on the road between Selvigny and 
Guillemin. The Lancashire Fusiliers, half of the Dublin 
Fusiliers (10th Brigade), and part of the King's Own appear 
to have started rather later, though half of the King's Own, 
receiving no warning to retire, remained in position at 
Haucourt. The rest of the Inniskillings slipped away from 
Esnes in small parties, just as the infantry of the 7th Reserve 
Division penetrated to the western houses of the village, 
and retreated upon Walincourt in good order. The enemy 
artillery searched the road with shrapnel, but the British 
columns moved on either side of it and escaped all damage. 

The 11th Brigade and the remainder of the 12th, much 
scattered, held their positions until 6 p.m. or even later. 
The 135th Battery (XXXII. Brigade R.F.A.), which was 
in close support of the infantry near Ligny, was so exposed 
that its withdrawal seemed impossible, and orders were 
actually issued that the guns should be abandoned ; but 
the battery commander, Major C. H. Liveing,^ decided to 
try and save his guns and, withdrawing them and their 
wagons by hand, brought all of them except one wagon 
safely away. To the west of Ligny the position of the 
27th Battery (XXXII. Brigade R.F.A.) was even worse ; 
nevertheless, the gunners, taking advantage of every lull, 
had succeeded in running back four guns and limbers to 
the sunken road in rear when increase in the German artil- 
lery fire compelled them to abandon the remaining two. 
The battery then formed up and awaited its opportunity : 
eventually it made a dash to the south-west, and, though it 
was pursued by German shells, got its four guns safely away.^ 

Of the 11th Brigade, Lieut. -Colonel E. H. Swayne of 
the Somerset L.I. brought away with him what survived 
of two companies ; the rest of the battalion under Major 

^ He was awarded the D.S.O. 

^ The battery commander, Major H. E. Vallentin, received the D.S.O., 
and two sergeants and five gunners, the D.C.M. 

THE 4th division 191 

C. B. Prowse, having become separated from him, remained 26 Aug. 
fighting at Ligny until a late hour. The East Lancashire i^^"*- 
withdrew in three distinct bodies, two of which united at 
Clary. The main body of the 1 /Rifle Brigade made its 
way to Selvigny and took up a covering position there, 
whilst another party, with scattered men of other regiments, 
came later to the same village with Br. -General Hunter- 
Weston. Last of all the Hampshire retired, about 7 p.m., 
and overtook the rest of the brigade on its way to Serain 
(4 miles south of Selvigny), where it passed the night. Of 
the 10th Brigade, only the Seaforth Highlanders and the 
Irish Fusiliers were under Br. -General Haldane's hand. 
Half of the Warwickshire and a good number of the Dublin 
Fusiliers were still in Haucourt, and the remainder were 
dispersed in various directions, some as escort to guns, 
others in small isolated bodies. 

As with the rest of Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien's force, 
the enemy not only did not pursue the 4th Division, but 
did very little even to eixibarrass the retreat. The 1 /Rifle 
Brigade, the rear guard of the 11th Brigade, and the com- 
posite party with it, finding the roads blocked in every 
direction, bivouacked at Selvigny, within two miles of the 
battlefield, and the Irish Fusiliers and Seaforths were 
almost level with them on the east, at Hurtevent Farm. 
The remainder were directed on through Walincourt, by Map 3. 
way of Malincourt — where a divisional column of march 
was made up with the artillery — and Aubencheul, to Vend- 
huille (2 miles north-west of Le Catelet). German shells, 
as we have seen, followed the British as long as they were 
within sight and range, and caused a few casualties, though 
not many ; the guns also bombarded the evacuated posi- 
tions with great fury until dark ; but the cavalry and 
infantry made no attempt to press on. In fact, Smith- 
Dorrien's troops had done what G.H.Q. feared was im- 
possible. With both flanks more or less in the air, they 
had turned upon an enemy of at least twice their strength ; 
had struck him hard, and had withdrawn, except on the 
right front of the 5th Division, practically without inter- 
ference, with neither flank enveloped, having suffered 
losses certainly severe, but, considering the circumstances, 
by no means extravagant.^ The men after their magnificent 

^ The total losses, after the stragglers had come in, were 7,812 men 
and 38 guns, including one 60-pdr. abandoned (for details see Note IV. 
at end of Chapter X.). 

General von Zwehl stated in the Militdr Wochenblatt of the 30th 


rifle-shooting looked upon themselves as victors ; some 
indeed doubted whether they had been in a serious action. 
Yet they had inflicted upon the enemy casualties never 
revealed, which are believed to have been out of all pro- 
portion to their own ; and they had completely foiled the 
plan of the German commander and of O.H.L. 

The suggestion has been made that the battle might 
have been avoided if G.H.Q. had ordered General Smith- 
Dorrien to continue his retreat and had detailed the 4th 
Division as rear guard to cover the movement. It will, 
however, be recalled that only the infantry and field 
artillery of the 4th Division were present on the field. 
Without cavalry, heavy battery, cyclists, engineers and 
signal company, it would have been difficult for Major- 
General Snow to carry out a step-by-step retirement in 
the face of the very superior number of German troops 
— three cavalry divisions and the IV. Corps — who were 
immediately available to deal with opposition. There is 
a consensus of opinion among the officers of the 4th 
Division that, had not the II. Corps stayed to fight, the 
division, whether appointed rear guard or not, would have 
been destroyed.^ 

It has also been suggested that General Smith-Dorrien 
might have ordered the retirement during the lull in the 
fighting about 1 p.m. Withdrawal might have been begun 
then with the greatest ease ; but in the several hours of 
daylight which remained the real direction of retirement 
would have been noticed by the enemy ; in the middle 
of the day his units were not only fresher but were not 
yet disorganized as a result of heavy fighting, and in all 
probabihty there would have been a close and disastrous 

Could the 5th Division have stood until dusk, or had 
the I. Corps given some assistance, there might have been 
fewer losses ; for the missing were largely made up of 

September 1919 that the prisoners taken, who included wounded, were 
2, GOO ; and this is confirmed by Kluck. The surprise of the King's Own 
in the early morning and the capture of the 1 /Gordon Highlanders, about 
to be described, added a considerable portion to the total casualties, and 
might have been avoided. 

^ Until his death. General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien was the guest 
at the annual dinner of the 4th Division. At the first at which he was 
present, Lieut. -General Sir Thomas Snow thanked him on behalf of the 
members of the division for saving them from death or captivity on the 
26th August 1914. 


wounded left on the ground, and of parties which did not 26 Aug. 
receive the order to retire. i^^'** 

In the circumstances, General Smith-Dorrien was fully 
justified in his decision to fight, and he was wise in delaying 
the retirement to the latest moment compatible with the 
safety of his force. 

A number of air reconnaissances were made for G.H.Q. 
during the fighting, but the reports were not forwarded 
to Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. One airman, however, made 
a forced landing near him, and reported three German 
batteries in action near Forest. For the first time airmen 
were used for liaison : about 11.30 a.m. one machine was 
sent to find where General Haig was, and, descending near 
a cavalry patrol, was able to do so ; another was sent to 
General Smith-Dorrien, who used the aviator to discover 
whether there was any menace to his left flank, where all 
was found well, and, later, to examine his right. After 
this, at 3 P.M., the general sent him back to G.H.Q. to 
report that the 5th Division had been unable to withstand 
a most determined artillery bombardment, and was retiring, 
but would get away somehow. 

The air reports for the day, owing no doubt to the Map 3. 
retirement of G.H.Q. from St. Quentin to Noyon at 3.30 
P.M., were not summarized : indeed, it is not certain when 
or where they were received. They were valuable both 
positively and negatively. The earliest one, 7.45-10.30 
A.M., reported a British battle line formed, and on its left 
rear a French infantry division (really cavalry) in bivouac 
near Gauzeaucourt, and a cavalry division moving west- 
ward ; further, no sign of any enemy west of a line through 
Cambrai — Le Catelet. The next reconnaissance (8.15-9.45 
A.M.) reported a column, without stating nationality — 
it was the 4th (Guards) Brigade — moving from Landrecies 
on La Groise ; German columns moving south on Engel- 
fontaine and Solesmes ; a mixed force (it must have been 
part of Marwitz's cavalry corps) near Carnieres ; and Le 
Cateau clear of troops but on fire. A third reconnaissance 
(9.55-11.15 A.M.) discovered troops marching south from 
Valenciennes (//. Corps), but found the roads to the north, 
except for transport, and to the east, clear, and at 11 a.m. 
a division {7th Reserve) approaching Carnieres ; the 
airman landed at Bertry, and gave this information to 
Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. A fourth reconnaissance (11 
A.M.-1.40 P.M.) reported shells bursting along the whole 
battle front, and Caudry partly in flames. The airman 

VOL. I o 


saw what was a brigade of the German 6th Division moving 
down the western side of the Forest of Mormal ; he reported 
Le Quesnoy full of troops, and dropped a bomb on a mass 
of transport ; he found Valenciennes and roads leading into 
it clear. A fifth reconnaissance (3.30-5.18 p.m.) observed 
shells bursting on Troisvilles, and Caudry on fire, and 
reported that one battery just east of Audencourt was all 
that could be seen of British troops on the battlefield : 
but along the ridge north of the Le Cateau — Cambrai road 
there was visible a line of German infantry in close forma- 
tion (local reserves no doubt) : and one German infantry 
regiment, moving south-west of Estournel (probably part 
of the 22nd Reserve Division), was outflanking the British 
left : later it was added that behind the British line re- 
tirement appeared general but orderly, and mainly down 
the Roman road : the final entry at 5.18 p.m. was that no 
infantry could now be seen engaged, but there was a good 
deal of artillery fire, principally from the Germans. 

These reports, combined with what was known of the 
British troops and of the previous moves of the Germans, 
should have given G.H.Q. a fairly clear picture of the 

There can be little doubt that the comparative 
ease with which the first stages of the retreat were ac- 
complished was due to the tenacity of the units which, 
having received no order to retire, clung with all their 
strength to the positions they had been ordered to hold. 
The story of the Suffolk and the K.O.Y.L.I. has already 
been related ; it now remains to tell that of the isolated 
detachments of the 3rd and 4th Divisions. Some time 
after dark, firing having ceased, it became known to Lieut.- 
Colonel F. H. Neish of the Gordons that an order had been 
shouted or signalled by two staff officers to different parts 
of the line for the 8th Brigade to retire, and that a signal 
to retire had been seen by one of his own junior officers ; 
but that the order had not reached his own regiment, 
the company of the Royal Scots which lay on its right 
and two companies of the Royal Irish on its left. At 7.45 
P.M. Brevet-Colonel W. E. Gordon, V.C., of the Gordon 
Highlanders, being the senior officer in army rank, assumed 
command of the whole of these troops ; but at 9.20 p.m. 
Colonel Neish sent an officer and two men to Troisvilles 
to obtain orders, if possible, from the headquarters of 
the 3rd Division. This officer not returning within the 


allotted time of two hours — he had fallen into the hands 27 Aug. 
of the enemy at Troisvilles — Colonel Gordon assembled ^^^^* 
his force towards Caudry at midnight, and at 12.30 a.m. 
marched off, quite undisturbed, through Audencourt. 
All was quiet in the village, and at 1.30 a.m. the head of the 
column reached Montigny. Here a light was seen in a 
cottage, and the occupants reported that early in the 
morning the British troops had moved on Bertry and 
Maurois. A man was ordered to guide the party through 
Montigny on to the road to Bertry, which he did ; and 
at 2 A.M. the head of the column reached the cross roads 
to the south-west of Bertry. Here three shots were fired, 
and after a few minutes' delay, during which the ad- 
vanced guard endeavoured to ascertain the nationality of 
the post, there was a heavy outbreak of rifle fire. The 
men were extended, and answered it. Orders were then 
given for the column to move back along the road to 
Montigny. But in the darkness the road south-westward 
to Clary was taken instead, and the column came upon a 
field gun which was trained to fire down the highway. 
This gun was rushed and taken before it could be discharged, 
and a mounted German officer near it was pulled off his 
horse, but the rear of the column now received rifle fire 
from the south and south-west. Once again the men were 
extended and replied, but the fire from the front and 
rear showed them pretty clearly that they were trapped. 
The head of the column now made an effort to force its 
way into Clary, and stormed a house on the outskirts of 
the village, in which were a number of German officers. 
The enemy, however, was by this time thoroughly alarmed. 
Firing began on all sides, and after fighting against hopeless 
odds for the best part of an hour longer, the Gordons, and 
the parties with them, were overpowered. Their captors 
were the 66th Regiment {IV. Corps), which had engaged the 
13th Brigade near Le Cateau.^ 

Of the Gordon Highlanders about five hundred were 
taken, but a few escaped, and a handful of them actually 
made their way through the German lines to Antwerp, 

1 " Regt. No. 66 " (pp. 37-9) confirms this account. It states that 
tlie fight at Clary lasted an hour. " A hurricane of fire was directed on 
" the British. . . . Their losses were frightful," and there were " consider- 
" able losses on the German side." Seven hundred prisoners of ten or 
eleven different regiments, including artillery, are said to have been 
captured. The 72nd arrived from Troisvilles after the fight, at 7.30 a.m. ; 
its history (p. 73) speaks of " uncounted bodies of Highlanders, who had 
" been surprised in the early morning, lying along the road." 


whence they were sent back to England. The fortune of 
war was hard upon the 1 /Gordons. For the time they 
practically ceased to exist as a battalion, but by their 
gallant resistance to all German attacks between 5 p.m. and 
dark on the 26th August they had rendered incalculable 
service to the 3rd Division and to the Army at large. 

Further to the west, isolated parties of several battalions 
of the 4th Division remained behind about Haucourt and 
Ligny. Two companies of the Dublin Fusiliers under 
Major H. M. Shewan, and two of the King's Own under 
Major R. G. Parker, holding fast to their trenches north 
and east of Haucourt, were attacked soon after nightfall, 
but succeeded in beating off the enemy ; and another party 
of the Dublin Fusiliers, attracted by the sound of the firing, 
moved up in time to shoot down a number of the retreating 
Germans. Major Shewan, and Major A. J. Poole of the 
Warwickshire, who had also remained behind on the east 
of Haucourt with three to four hundred men of his battalion, 
then consulted together as to what should be done, since 
the enemy had apparently moved round both their flanks. 
Major Poole, being familiar with the ground, undertook to 
lead the party southward across country, and at 11 p.m. 
the march began. About the same time Major Parker and 
his party of the King's Own started southward independ- 
ently, and succeeded in making good their retreat. Major 
Poole, steering for Selvigny, struck the village of Caullery. 
Here he was joined at dawn of the 27th by another platoon 
of the Dublin Fusiliers under Lieutenant J. F. R. Massy- 
Westropp, who had retired at dusk from his trenches in the 
road between Ligny and Haucourt and, finding his retreat 
threatened by a party of Germans in a farm, had promptly 
attacked them, driven them away and gone on his way 
unmolested. These, together with his own party and some 
of the Irish Fusiliers who were with them. Major Poole later 
led on in the track of the 4th Division. The Dublin 
Fusiliers, however, lost touch of him in the darkness, and 
drifted into Ligny at 2 a.m. on the 27th, where they made 
a short halt to find food. The men dropped down on the 
road, and instantly fell asleep. After a time, the march 
was resumed southward upon Clary, but near the entrance 
to the village they were fired on from the east and, signalling 
to ascertain whether the aggressors were friend or foe (for 
in the dim light there was abundant room for error), were 
told to join them as quickly as possible. The column 
accordingly advanced, and was at once swept by machine- 


gun fire from front and flank. The men were deployed, 27 Aug. 
and then ordered to retire by small groups mutually sup- ^^^'*- 
porting each other. Eventually, the Dublin Fusiliers 
reached Ligny with about two hundred men, comprising 
soldiers from nearly every battalion of the 3rd, 4th and 5th 
Divisions — and even two men of the 1st Division — who had 
drifted together upon the nucleus under Major She wan. 
First they struck out south-east, but finding Germans on 
every side, turned north-west, and after many wanderings 
and more than one sharp engagement, eventually seventy- 
eight officers and men came through the German lines into 
Boulogne. The remainder of Major Shewan's party seems 
to have been killed or taken to a man. 

On the whole, therefore, it appears that of these three 
detachments which may have numbered in all two thousand 
men, about one half escaped and rejoined the Army sooner 
or later. These details may be considered trivial, but they 
are a testimony to the courage and resource of the officers 
and men of the old army. Moreover, these detachments 
had done far better work than they imagined. Though 
a mere handful scattered along some eight thousand yards 
of front, they had prevented the enemy for several hours 
from advancing along the whole of that line. The perpetual 
bombardment of vacated positions, and in particular that 
of Audencourt which was repeated an hour after dark, is 
plain evidence that the Germans were exceedingly sus- 
picious of what might be before them. Beyond question, 
they had suffered very heavily — as indeed was admitted by 
German officers to some of their British prisoners — and 
from one cause and another they were disinclined to take 
risks. That the isolation of these British detachments was 
undesigned in no way detracts from the merit of their 
achievement. 1 

The Retreat from the Battlefield 

While this handful of men was thus mystifying the Sketch 4. 
German leaders, the main body of General Smith-Dorrien's ^^-'^^P^^ ^ 

1 Hauptmann Heubner, in his book " Unter Emniich vor Liittich : 
Unter Kluck vor Paris," p. 87, confirms the view stated of tlie effect of 
tlie parties left behind. His battaUon of the 20th Regiment, 6lh Division, 
111. Corps, came on to tlie field late. He says, " in front of us there 
" still swarmed a numt)er of scattered English troops, who were easily 
" able to hide in the large woods of the district, and again and again forced 
" us to waste time in deployments, as we could not tell what their strength 
" might be." 


force was in full retreat. The 5th Division train had 
started down the Roman road very early in the day, and 
two staff officers had accompanied it to keep it moving all 
night ; for there was fear of being overtaken by German 
cavalry. The 3rd Division train had followed it, cutting 
in on the Roman road from the north. Thus one serious 
encumbrance was removed, but the highway was, never- 
theless, choked for miles with an interminable column of 
transport, with the inevitable consequence of long stoppages 
and frequent short checks. The bulk of the 5th Division 
and of the 19th Brigade reached Estrees (15 miles from 
Le Cateau) between 9 p.m. and midnight, where, wet, weary, 
hungry and longing for sleep, they were directed on to the 
cross roads, two miles beyond. There the sorting of the 
troops was taken in hand, a simple process on paper, but 
difficult enough in practice on a dark and dismal night : 
staff officers stood at the cross roads, shouting continuously, 
" Transport and mounted troops straight on, 3rd Division 
" infantry to right, 5th Division infantry to left." Then, 
when the men turned as directed, they were sorted by other 
officers according to brigades and battalions. By 2 a.m. 
on the 27th sorting was completed, and orders were issued 
for a start at 4 a.m., at which time all units of the 5th 
Division and the detachments from other formations 
marched off in good order ; some units, of course, were very 
weak in numbers, as many men had not come in. The 
transport and mounted troops were sorted out south of 
St. Quentin, and there, well after sunrise, a rearrangement 
of the column of the 5th Division was also made ; but this 
was a matter of reorganizing units, not individual soldiers 
as had been the case near Estrees. 

About midnight, the 3rd Division, having marched 
by Elincourt and Malincourt, came into Beaurevoir, north 
of the 5th Division. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade with the 
Bays (1st Cavalry Brigade) and 4th Dragoon Guards 
(2nd Cavalry Brigade), seeing the crowd on the Roman 
road, retired east of Estrees to Brancourt, Montbrehain 
and Ramicourt. The 11th Hussars (1st Cavalry Brigade) 
came very late into Estrees. Half of the 9th Lancers 
(2nd Cavalry Brigade) withdrew a little to the south of 
the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to Fresnoy, the remainder having 
marched with the headquarters of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade 
right across the rear of the Army from Bohain, through 
Beaurevoir to Marquaix (11 miles north-west of St. Quen- 
tin). Of the 4th Division, the 10th and 12th Brigades, 


with the divisional artillery, retreated, 2| miles west of the 26 Aug. 
3rd Division, by Malincourt and Villers Outreaux to Le 1914« 
Catelet and Vendhuille, which were reached between 11 p.m. 
and midnight. The 11th Brigade, finding its way blocked 
by the 3rd Division at Elincourt, remained there for the 

Everywhere, when the order to halt was given, the 
men dropped down on the road, and were asleep almost 
before they reached the ground. The only precautions 
possible at the late hour were to push small piquets out 
a few hundred yards on each side of the road. Officers 
of the cavalry and artillery, themselves half dead with 
fatigue, had to rouse their men from a semi-comatose 
state to water and feed the horses, then to rouse them 
once more to take the nose-bags off, taking care lest they 
should fall asleep in the very act. And all this had to 
be done in inky darkness under drizzling rain. After 
three or four hours' halt, the order was given to resume 
the march. The officers roused the sergeants, and the 
men were hunted out, hustled on to their feet, hardly 
conscious of what they were doing, and by some means 
or other formed into a column. Then the column got 
under way, drivers and troopers drowsing in their saddles, 
infantry staggering half-asleep as they marched, every 
man stiff with cold and weak with hunger, but, under 
the miraculous power of discipline, plodding on. 

Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien on arrival at St. Quentin 
on the evening of the 26th found that G.H.Q. had left . 
for Noyon. After sending off a report of the situation 
in writing,^ he proceeded there himself by motor car, to 
give personally to the Commander-in-Chief an account of 
the action and its successful breaking off. He arrived 
shortly after midnight and was informed that the orders, 
issued by G.H.Q. in the afternoon of the 26th, for the 
retirement to the St. Quentin (Crozat) canal — Somme 
line (La Fere — Ham) still held good. Earlier in the 
day, before Sir John French had quitted St. Quentin, 
General Joffre and General Lanrezac had visited him for 
a conference. Sir John pointed out the isolated position 
of the British Army, as he conceived it, and the French 
Commander-in-Chief had confirmed a " directive " already 
sent to British G.H.Q. In this he had stated his intention 
of withdrawing to the Laon — La Fere — Ham — Bray sur 

^ He had sent reports to G.H.Q. at 10.28 a.m., 12.10 p.m. and 3.47 p.m., 
in the last reporting the beginning of tlie retirement. 


Somme position, and subsequently retaking the offensive, 
as soon as a new Army, the Sixth, could be formed on the 
left of the British. His main interest was that, in spite of 
the heavy losses they had suffered, the British should 
not fall out of the line. The Field-Marshal agreed to 
make his retirement as deliberate as possible. 

Thus posted in the general situation. General Smith- 
Dorrien returned to his headquarters at St. Quentin. 
Under his instructions, the 5th Division and the 19th 
Brigade were intercepted at Bellcnglise and turned south- 
eastward upon St. Quentin, where supplies awaited them, 
with directions to march thence upon Ollezy (4 miles east 
of Ham). The 3rd Division was to continue its march from 
Bellicourt and Hargicourt upon Vermand, heading for 
Ham. Unfortunately its supply column had missed it 
and it was without rations from the 25th until the after- 
noon of the 27th. The 4th Division was to proceed via 
Roisel, Hancourt, Monchy Lagache to Voyennes (4 miles 
west of Ham), picking up supphes en route. 


It is now time to return to the I. Corps and see what it 
was doing on the morning of the 26th whilst the II. Corps 
was engaged at the Battle of Le Cateau. 

Whatever loss the Germans might have suffered in their 
repulse by the Guards at Landrecies, they had succeeded in 
disturbing the repose of the I. Corps and in keeping it 
on the alert all night in expectation of an attack. Its 
strategic position, besides, was far from satisfactory ; 
for the enemy appeared to be about to break in between 
it and the II. Corps, and to be threatening the flank of 
its retreat from the west. Soon after midnight, from his 
headquarters at Le Grand Fayt, five miles from Landrecies, 
Sir Douglas Haig took measures to meet the situa- 
tion, and to occupy a position facing north and north- 
west, preparatory to retiring southward. The trains, after 
dumping supplies, were ordered to Etreux, carrying the 
men's packs in the empty lorries. The 1st Division was 
to take position near Favril, a mile and a half S.S.E. of 
Landrecies, to cover the withdrawal of the 2nd Division 
on its right. The 2nd Division was divided, part retiring 
to the right and part to the left rear of the 1st Division, as 
follows : — 


The 5th and 6th Brigades to close in from Noyelles and 26 Aug. 

Maroilles upon Le Grand Fayt ; 1914. 

The 4th (Guards) Brigade to retire as soon as possible from 

Landrecies on La Groise, 7 miles to the south ; 
The 5th Cavalry Brigade to cover the western flank of the 

corps between Ors and Catillon on the Sambre canal. 

Sir John French appears to have become uneasy about 
the prospect of the I. Corps retiring due south ; for about 
6 A.M., whilst General Haig was still at Le Grand Fayt, a 
staff officer from G.H.Q. brought him instructions giving 
him the alternatives of retiring south-westward on St. 
Quentin, that is tow^ards the 11. Corps, or in a south- 
easterly direction to seek shelter with the French,^ in 
which case his troops would have to rejoin the Expedition- 
ary Force by train. The G.O.C. I. Corps considered it 
best to allow the movements already ordered to proceed, 
as he could do no more than he had done to comply with 
the spirit of the instructions. He confirmed the fact that 
he was retiring southward by a message at 10 a.m. Unfor- 
tunately, by this decision direct touch with the II. Corps 
was broken, and not regained until the 1st September. ^ 

The French Reserve divisions on the right of the I. 
Corps were warned of the retirement, and a brigade, sent by 
General Valabregue to gain touch with the right of the 
2nd Division, occupied first the line Marbaix — Maroilles, 

1 He informed General Lanrezac of this possibility. See page 136. 

* There was no direct connection or communication between the I. 
and II. Corps during the fighting on the 26th ; they were both, however, 
in signal communication with G.H.Q. No information was sent by G.H.Q. 
to either corps as regards the situation of the other after the message in 
the early morning to the II. Corps informing General Smith-Dorrien that 
the I. Corps had asked for assistance, and the subsequent message telling 
him that the news from the I. Corps was reassuring. At 1 p.m. G.H.Q. 
telegraphed to both corps and the Cavalry Division, " In case of retreat 
" direct your movement on St. Quentin and then Noyon." There is then 
a pause in the liaison. At 8.30 p.m. General Haig despatched an enquiry 
to G.H.Q., " No news of II. Corps except sound of guns from direction of 
" Le Cateau and Beaumont. Can I. Corps be of any assistance." To this 
enquiry no answer was vouchsafed. At this hour G.H.Q. seems to have 
given up the II. Corps as lost ; for from Noyon at 8.15 p.m. Colonel Huguet 
telegraphed in cipher to G.Q.G. : 

" Bataille perdue par armee anglaise qui parait avoir perdu cohesion. 
" Elle demandera, pour etre reconstituee, d'etre serieusement protegee. 
" Quartier general ce soir Noyon. Plus amples details suivront." [F.O.A., 
i. (ii.), Annexe (i.) p. 429.] 

Receiving no reply from G.H.Q., at 11 p.m. General Haig sent a message 

(probably drafted earlier) to the II. Corps, via G.H.Q. : " Please let me know 

" your situation and news. We are well able to co-operate with you to-day, 

" we could hear the sound of your battle, but could get no information as 

' to its progress, and could form no idea of how we could assist you." 


and subsequently the high ground between Le Grand Fayt 
and Maroilles. 

As matters turned out, the Germans made no attempt 
to renew their attacks.^ The 3rd Brigade entrenched at 
Favril, and the 4th had passed it, totally unmolested, by 
4.15 A.M. The 3rd Brigade was slightly engaged later in 
the day, but would probably have been left in absolute 
peace had not a section of British guns, by firing at a distant 
column of German infantry marching west,^ provoked re- 
taliation and a sharp attack by some dismounted cavalry, 
which resulted in a few casualties to the 1 /Gloucestershire. 
At noon the 1st (Guards) Brigade relieved the 6th Brigade 
near Le Grand Fayt, enabling the latter to strike south- 
ward through fitreux, where the 4th (Guards) Brigade had 
secured the bridge leading across the Sambre to Venerolles. 
The retirement of the 1st Division then began ; between 
1 P.M. and 2 p.m. the 1st (Guards) and 2nd Brigades left 
Favril for Fesmy and Oisy, both to the north of fitreux. 
Not one of these brigades reached its destination before 
10 P.M., and the men were greatly fatigued. The 3rd 
Brigade remained at Favril till 5 p.m., and then marched 
straight to Oisy. 

The progress of the 5th Brigade from Noyelles to Le 
Grand Fayt was arrested for several hours by the move- 
ment across its line of march south-westwards on Guise of 
General Valabregue's divisions. About half a mile to the 
south-west of Marbaix towards 1 p.m. the transport of the 
main body was blocked ; the 2/Connaught Rangers, which 
formed the rear guard, came perforce to a halt. One com- 
pany remained in rear of the transport, and the rest of the 
battalion halted on the road from Maroilles to Marbaix, a 
mile south of Taisnieres. At this point French infantry 
w^as entrenching a position, whilst French cavalry patrols 
guarded the roads in all directions. From these it was 
understood that there was no enemy in the vicinity. After 
taking due precaution, therefore, to watch the approaches, 
the commanding officer, Lieut. -Colonel A. W. Abercrombie, 
allowed the Connaught Rangers to rest, sending word to 

^ The Germans expected to be attacked across the Sambre, and as 
their 7th, 5ih and 6th Divisions were marching to the field of Le Cateau, 
they left the bridges guarded. Thus a battalion of the 165th Regiment 
was for a time opposite Landrecies, being relieved by one of the 48th 
Eegiment and one of the 35th Regiment ; the 12th Brigade {24th and 64th 
Regiments) arranged to guard the other bridges from Berlaimont upwards. 

2 Part of the III. Corps moving from Landrecies on Le Cateau. See 
"Regt. No. 48," pp. 10, 17. 


Br. -General Halving that he would move on to Le Grand 26 Aug. 
Fayt at 3 p.m. unless otherwise ordered. At 3.15 p.m. 1914. 
French patrols came in with the news that some two 
hundred Germans, with a machine gun, were close at hand. 
Colonel Abercrombie at once set out with two platoons 
towards Marbaix, and, after advancing some six hundred 
yards, was met by fire from artillery and a machine gun. 
Calling up the rest of the battalion, he deployed it south 
of the road. The companies then advanced over difficult 
country, of high hedges and small enclosures, under rifle 
fire, which however ceased after about an hour. A mes- 
senger sent to brigade headquarters to report the situation 
was unable to find them ; and between 5 and 6 p.m. the 
company commanders, being out of touch with Colonel 
Abercrombie, began to withdraw independently through 
Le Grand Fayt south-westwards upon Barzy with such men 
as they could collect. At 6 p.m. Colonel Abercrombie 
followed with about a hundred men, being assured by an 
inhabitant that no enemy was in Le Grand Fayt ; but, 
while passing through the village, his detachment was fired 
upon by Germans concealed in the houses, and compara- 
tively few escaped. Other parties were also cut off, and 
altogether nearly three hundred officers and men of the 
Connaught Rangers were missing.^ 

The 5th Brigade finally went into billets at Barzy, 5 
miles north-east of the bulk of the 2nd Division. The 5th 
Cavalry Brigade, which was little molested in its duty of 
covering the left flank except by occasional shells, fell back 
with trifling loss eight miles further to Hannapes, on the 
Oise, about two miles south-west of Jfitreux, not reaching its 
billets until far into the night. 

The position of the I. Corps on the night of the 26th 
was in and around Etreux ; in detail as follows : — 

1st Division : Fesmy, Petit Cambresis, Oisy. 
2nd Division : £treux, Venerolles. 
5th Cavalry Brigade : Hannapes. 
Corps H.Q. : 1| miles east of Hannapes. 

^ Vogel gives a full account of this fight. The attackers were the 1st 
Guard Cavalry Brigade and the Gardc-SchiUzenbataillon. He states that 
French troops also took part, and about 100 of them were taken prisoners, 
as well as 93 English. According to him, it was the German cavalry 
which was surprised, and the Divisional Staff, which was close up to the 
vanguard, was under fire. He mentions that the German cavalry fought on 
foot on this day for the first time in the war. His division billeted at Marbaix. 

The German official list of battles shows that the 2nd Guard Reserve 
Division of the X. Reserve Corps was also engaged at Marbaix on the 26th 


The II. Corps and 4th Division and remaining cavalry 
brigades were 18 miles to the west, in retreat south-west- 
ward to the Oise, on the front of St. Quentin — Le Catelet. 

The French 53rd and 69th Reserve Divisions were to 
the south-east of the I. Corps at Iron and Lavaqueresse. 

German Accounts of Le Cateau 

iketch 7. Very little has been published in Germany about Le Cateau ; 
riaps 3, 9, there is no official monograph on the battle, as there is on Mons 
'^ 11' and Ypres. The fighting on the 26th August was at first almost 

concealed by being included in the so-called " Battle of St. Quentin." 
There is no doubt that the enemy not only suffered heavy casualties 
and wasted a whole day in time, but, owing to misconception of the 
situation and indifferent staff work, lost a great opportunity of 
enveloping three British divisions. It is for these reasons perhaps 
that he has said little about it. 

In the official list of battles issued at the end of 1919, it is called 
" the Battle of Solesmes— Le Cateau (25th-27th August 1914)," and 
the troops present are given as III. Corps {5th and 6th Divisions), 
IV. Corps {7th and 8th Divisions), IV. Reserve Corps {7th Reserve 
and 22nd Reserve Divisions) and //. Cavalry Corps {2nd, 4th and 9th 
Cavalry Divisions), whilst the 3rd Division of the II. Corps is shown 
as engaged on the 26th at " Cambrai." 

Tlie official bulletin, issued by the Supreme Command on the 
28th August, runs as follows : 

" Defeat of the English at St. Quentin. The English Army,i to 
" which three French Territorial divisions ^ had attached themselves, 
" has been completely defeated north of St. Quentin, and is in full 
" retreat through St. Quentin. ^ Several thousand prisoners, seven 
" field batteries and a heavy battery fell into our hands." * 

The troops were told that 12,000 prisoners had been taken.^ 

As already noticed,^ Kluck's operation orders for the 26th, 
issued at Haussy, three miles north of Solesmes, at 10.50 p.m. on 
the 25th, merely gave instructions for a long march in pursuit, mainly 
in a direction in which there was not much to pursue. His summary 
of them runs : — 

" The First Army, from parts of which severe marches are 
" demanded, will continue the pursuit of the beaten enemy. 

" The //. Corps [commencing on the west] will march Naa Cambrai 
" on Bapaume, west of the road Valenciennes — Vendegies — Villers 

1 Only three out of five divisions were present at Le Cateau. 

2 Only one Territorial division — the — was present. The 61st 
and 62nd Reserve Divisions were west of Cambrai, but not engaged 
(see page 210). 

3 Only the 5th Division, part of the cavalry, and some stragglers came 
through St. Quentin. 

* See page 191, f.n. 1, for the correct figures. 
B Bloem, p. 183. 

* See page 169. 


" en Cauchies — Cattenieres, till it is abreast of Graincourt [5 miles 26 Aug. 
" S.W. of CambraiJ. 1914- 

" The IV. Reserve Corps, starting early, via Vendegies — Villers 
" en Cauchies to Cattenieres. 

" The IV. Corps from Solesmes and Landrecies, by two routes : 
" via Caudry, and via IMontay — Caullery — Walincourt, to Vendhuille ; 
" the road Landrecies — Le Cateau is allotted to the ///. Corps. 

" The ///. Corps by the Landrecies — Le Cateau road to Maretz. 

" Orders will be issued at Solesmes at 11 a.m. 

" The IX. Corps will cover the flank march of the Army from 
" the west and south-west fronts of Maubeuge, and will send any 
" troops not required to follow the ///. Corps via Berlaimont — 
" Maroilles to Landrecies." 

Although General von Kluck before he wrote had read Sir John 
French's despatch, from which he quotes at length, he was evidently 
still labouring under considerable misapprehension as to the dis- 
positions of the B.E.F. and its movements. It is best to quote his 
narrative : — 

" In the early morning Marwitz's cavalry corps, moving via 
" Wambaix — Beauvois — Quievy, attacked the enemy, who was 
" withdrawing in a westerly (sic) direction, drove him partly back 
" towards the south, and held him fast until the heads of the army 
" corps came up." This account hardly corresponds with the long 
pause in the fighting and Captain Wirth's story of finding regiments 
of the cavalry corps cowering behind the shelter of houses.^ 

" The IV. Corps about 8 a.m. attacked strong British forces at 
" Caudry — Troisvilles — Reumont, and encountered stout resistance 
" from the enemy, who was well-established in his position. The 
" IV. Reserve Corps was to envelop the northern [sic] and the ///. 
" Corps the southern [sic] flank of the position. The former, how- 
" ever, struck against the French at Cattenieres ; the ///. Corps, 
" moving on Maretz, did not get further than Honnechy on the 
" 26th. By evening the IV. Reserve Corps succeeded in driving its 
" opponents back in a southerly direction whilst the IV. Corps 
" overthrew the right wing of the British. The //. Corps defeated 
" stronger French forces at Cambrai." ^ 

Apparently Kluck really thought that the B.E.F. was facing east, 
and that if the IV. Reserve Corps drove it southwards, i.e., off its 
line of retreat to Calais — Boulogne, it would endeavour to get away 
to the west. This is confirmed by the fact tliat when the IV. Reserve 
Corps relieved Marwitz's cavalry corps, the latter moved west of 
Cambrai, and on the 27th marched down the Cambrai — Bapaume 
road to intercept any movement of the B.E.F. westwards. The //. 
Corps also pushed on west-south-west of Cambrai on the 26th, and 
its 4th Division reached Hermies, half-way to Bapaume, where it 
blocked any escape to the west. 

Kluck's narrative of the battle ends with a statement, which 
shows that he thought the British I. Corps and also the 6th Division, 
still in England, were present. " The whole British Expeditionary 
" Corps, six divisions, a cavalry division and several French Territorial 
" divisions opposed the First Army. ... If the English stand on the 
" 27th, the double envelopment may yet bring a great success." 

1 See page 184, f.n. 1. 

2 This is hardly the case. See the action of the French 84th Territorial 
Division at Cambrai, page 210. 


He reported to the Supreme Command that he had won a victory, 
and not over three divisions but nine, and thereby, it is claimed by 
German writers, helped to mislead Moltke as to the real situation. ^ 

Relying on the retreat of the British westward being intercepted 
by jMarwitz's cavalry and the //. Corps, which was to march at 
1 A.M., both directed on Combles (20 miles south-west of Cambrai), 
" so as to prevent the British escaping westwards," ^ he gave the 
remainder of his force a night's rest. His operation orders, issued at 
8.13 P.M., directed the IV. Reserve, IV. and ///. Corps " to cross 
" the line roughly Esnes — Caudry — Reumont at 4 a.m." This was 
the British battle front of the previous evening, and as the action 
was broken off by Sir H. Smith-Dorrien at 3.30 p.m. and all his three 
divisions were on the move by 5 p.m., they had nearly twelve hours' 
start of the enemy. Thus it was, the German cavalry having been 
given a wrong direction, that there was no pursuit. 

The German Official Account ' devotes only five and a half pages 
to the battle. According to it, the II. Cavalry Corps started from 
the neighbourhood of Avesnes (6 miles north-west of Solesmes) at 
8.30 A.M. with its three divisions abreast, and " after a short march 
" ran into strong British forces of all arms in the villages north of 
" the Warnelle. Around these villages arose a stubborn conflict 
" which the cavalry corps had to maintain without assistance for 
" many hours." The attack of the 2nd Cavalry Division, the western- 
most, was brought to a stop by artillery fire from the Esnes direction ; 
only when the British retired could the Jdger battalions of the 
di\asion take possession of the British position. From 5 a.m. on- 
wards the 9th Cavalry Division attacked Beauvois, and the 4th, 
Bethencourt, and towards noon (when the 11th Brigade retired) the 
Jdger battalion of the 9th " stormed the position south of Fontaine 
" au Pire and eastwards," the 4th Cavalry Division being still held 
up at Bethencourt. 

The First Army headquarters received the first news of these 
encounters at 9 a.m. by wireless. The message ran as follows : 
" //. Cavalry Corps in very serious engagement with enemy at 
" Solesmes and Le Cateau, who in places is advancing to attack. 
" Support requested." From this message it was supposed that 
the cavalry had caught up the British and forced them to battle. 
" This picture of the situation was emphasized by a message which 
" arrived soon after from the 2nd Cavalry Division, saying that it 
" had attacked strong British columns marching westwards." 
General von Kluck did not consider any further orders need be 
issued, as the double envelopment of the British seemed to be going 
according to plan ; he was confirmed in his view by a further message 
from the II. Cavalry Corps which said that the //. (really the IV.) 
Corps had attacked at 8.10 a.m. from the direction of Solesmes. 

In the IV. Corps (General Sixt von Armin), the 8th Division 
had advanced early through Solesmes, without meeting resistance, 
the main body marching towards Viesly and the 72nd Regiment 
towards Le Cateau. On reports that the enemy was standing on 

1 Tappen, p. 21. Kuhl's " Marne," p. 82. The latter writer, Kluck's 
Chief of the Staff, comments (pp. 81-2), now that the truth is known : 
" Where was [British] G.H.Q.that day? One corps marches off, the other 
" remains contrary to orders and accepts an unequal battle." 

* Poseck, p. 64. The hour at which the cavalry started is not stated. 

» i. pp. 522-7. 


the Cambrai — Le Cateau main road, the division deployed against 26 Aug. 
Bethencourt and Beaumont. As the British evacuated both these 1914. 
places after a short resistance, by advanced troops, the 8th Division 
took possession of them about 11 a.m. Meantime the 72nd Regiment 
had pushed tlirough Le Cateau and become engaged with the British 
on the heights beyond. The situation of this isolated regiment 
became somewhat alarming, especially when it became known that 
troops were advancing on Le Cateau from the north-east. " The 
" new enemy, however, turned out to be German troops." ^ The 
7th Division, which was marching on Le Cateau via Montay and 
had deployed in front of Forest about 8 a.m., now arrived, and a 
large portion of the division (one brigade) was sent to envelop the 
British right flank ; but, after carrying the forward position south- 
west of Montay (sic), it could make no progress against the main 

"■ The quick eye of General Sixt von Armin very soon detected 
" that he had to do with more than a mere pursuit action. By a 
" corps order, issued at 11.15 a.m., he organized the hitherto dis- 
" jointed attack of his divisions into a combined operation." He 
ordered the 8th Division to attack west of the line Neuvilly^ — Trois- 
villes, and the 7th Division to attack with the 13th Brigade and the 
72nd Regiment between this line and the line Le Cateau — Reumont, 
whilst the 14th Brigade enveloped the enemy right via Le Cateau 
railway station. 

The commander of the 8th Division at 1 p.m., after a long artillery 
preparation, ordered the attack against Caudry and Audencourt, 
and it is claimed that Caudry was taken and held,^ but that Auden- 
court, though in flames, could not be captured. 

The battle " went more favourably " for the 7th Division, on 
whose front the superiority of the German artillery made itself felt. 
" The British right wing was beaten," the reinforcements put in 
" only added to the confusion " and the envelopment also began to 
become effective. 

The presence of the III. Corps (General von Lochow) from the 
east now began to make itself felt. Parts of the 5th Division marching 
from Pommereuil came up gradually level with the 7th Division, the 
remainder of the 5th Division turning southward on Bazuel. 

The histories of the four infantry regiments of the 5th Division 
do not quite bear out this statement of the official historian. The 
8th Leib Grenadiers (pp. 61-2), which was leading, says the division 
inarched from Landrecies via Pommereuil. " The participation of 
" the regiment was limited to the opening out of //. Battalion under 
" enemy artillery fire and the deployment of the machine-gun com- 
" pany against an enemy battery. . . . The disappearance of this 
" battery brought an end to the company waging war on its own 
" account " ; towards midnight the regiment reached Honnechy 
and Maurois and billeted there. The 52nd Regiment followed the 
8th from Locquignol and bivouacked without incident at St. Benin ; 
the 48th got no further than Bazuel ; the 12th Grenadiers marched 
at the tail, and its history does not mention where it halted. The 
total distance covered by the head of the division was thus only 

^ Lohrisch, pp. 102-3, states that troops of the two sister divisions, 7th 
and 8ih, fired on each other at this time. 

^ It has Ijcen pointed out (page 181) that the 8ih Division does not 
agree about this. 



eleven miles between dawn and midnight, for which there is no 

To return to the main narrative. Before the great envelopment 
movement could take effect, " the British resistance had broken. . . . 
" When the 7th Division assaulted at 2.30 p.m. only a few machine 
" guns were firing. . . . The retreat of the beaten right wing was 
" carried out so quickly that the order for pursuit issued by General 
" Sixt von Armin at 1.15 p.m. could not take effect. Precious time 
" was lost in reorganizing on the Le Cateau — Honnechy road, the units 
" having become mixed up. In the evening [thus nothing was done 
" for several hours] the 7th Division was drawn westwards to make 
" room for the ///. Corps, the head of whose 5th Division reached 
" Honnechy, whilst that of the 6th came up to Forest." Information 
kindly supplied by the Reichsarchiv is to the effect that the 6th 
Division on the night of the 25th/26th was in the Forest of Mormal, 
with its head outside the eastern exit near Aulnoye and its tail on 
the Roman road. Its orders were to march via Landrecies and Le 
Cateau on Maretz. At some time on the 26th these were counter- 
manded ; for the leading brigade was marched back north-westwards 
through the Forest of Mormal, whilst the second brigade, starting 
late, marched straight on down the Roman road, and the whole 
division, without going into action, went into billets in the area 
jTorest— Bousies — Engelfontaine — Vendegies, which had been occu- 
pied by the 7th Division on the previous night. The long marches 
of the 6th Division therefore brought it little nearer the battle. 

Of the infantry regiments of the 6th Division, the history of the 
24th, the leading one, says it started at 3 a.m., " was drawn hither 
" and thither, and with few pauses it marched until late evening, 
" dropping a battalion to take and guard Berlaimont bridge." The 
64th Regiment had lain down to rest on the road at 12.30 a.m., 
started again at 3 a.m. eastward, and at 5 a.m. dropped two com- 
panies to guard the Sambre bridges in the sector Landrecies — Leval. 
About 8 A.M. it turned back through the forest, now ahead of the 
24th Regiment, and proceeded via Engelfontaine on Robersart, but 
at 7.15 P.M. went into bivouac " dead tired " round Engelfontaine. 
The 35th Fusiliers, " at the tail of the division," starting at 9.30 a.m., 
following the other regiment of the brigade, the 20th, marched 
straight down the Roman road to Engelfontaine, where it was told 
to send a battaUon, with a battery, to Landrecies. The brigade 
then took up a position of readiness to support the IV. Corps near 
Bousies, one battalion of the 35th Fusiliers being sent forward as 
artillery escort, but " the brigade did not come into action, as the 
" enemy had meantime disappeared." 

The German Official Account continues that in the late afternoon 
the 18th Division of the IX. Corps (Lieut. -General von Quast) reached 
Landrecies, the 17th remaining before Maubeuge. 

In the centre of the battlefield, after the 8th Division had made 
towards evening " an unsuccessful thrust " against Audencourt, the 
G.O.C., at 5.30 p.m., ordered it to stand fast and await the effect of 
the enveloping attack of the IV. Reserve Corps next day. 

The regimental histories of the 8th Division give the following 
accounts. The three infantry regiments (the fourth, the 72nd, the ad- 
vanced guard, was in Le Cateau) were deployed off the Solesmes — Le 
Cateau road for the attack against the 3rd Di\ision. The 36th Fusiliers 
advanced from Neuvilly against " Inchy and east of that village," 


the 93rd from Viesly against Beaumont, and the 153rd from Viesly 26 Aug, 
against Bethencourt. The 3Gth Fusiliers did not move to the attack 1914. 
until " about 12 noon," and then " without sufficient artillery 
" preparation." The objective was the road Le Cateau — Beaumont, 
but the regiment made no progress at first. " When at 4.30 p.m. 
" the enemy evacuated his position, the regiment gained its objective 
" and entered on pursuit towards Troisvilles " ; there it assembled 
and then returned to Audencourt to billet. It had just 400 casualties 
(51 dead). (" Fus. Regt. No. 36," pp. 9-11.) The 93rd Regiment 
(pp. 41-7 of its history) was ordered at 9.15 a.m. to attack Beaumont. 
It got into the village after " considerable losses," about 11 a.m. ; 
but "• a further advance beyond the edge of the village proved im- 
" possible " — all attempts to do so broke down under artillery and 
rifle fire. The British remained in position until night, it is stated, 
and then slipped away unseen. " The victory was dearly bought," 
there being 433 casualties (118 dead). The 153rd Regiment (pp. 54-6) 
came under artillery fire directly it left Viesly shortly before 9 a.m., 
in attack formation. By 10 a.m. British posts in Bethencourt had 
been driven out, and the battalions then waited whilst the 5-9-inch 
howitzers of 114th Field Artillery Regiment fired on Caudry and farms 
near. At noon a formal attack on Caudry was ordered for " early 
" in the afternoon." Little progress was made and heavy losses were 
incurred, and only at the " beginning of darkness " did the front 
line reach assaulting distance. Then, " in view of the strength of 
" the enemy position," the troops were ordered to hold on till next 
day, when the enveloping attack of the IV. Reserve Corps would 
have taken effect. The casualties of the 153rd Regiment were 291 
(51 dead). 

On the western flank, the IV. Reserve Corps about 9 a.m. received 
a summons from General von Kluck " to cut off the British, who 
" were in full flight westwards," and, as we have seen. General von 
Gronau at once sent forward the artillery of both divisions, with a 
cavalry escort. Later the First Army ordered him to make a wider 
sweep towards Crevecoeur, and then carry out an enveloping attack 
against the enemy position at Caudry, but, as his infantry approached 
the battlefield, the British " had already been thrown back by the 
" cavalry corps on to their position south of the Warnelle stream. 
" Without knowledge of this, at 1.30 p.m. General von Gronau ordered 
" his corps to attack in the general direction of Haucourt." The 
7th Reserve Division, as it advanced, was, however, attacked in flank 
by a strong body of French cavalry (Sordet), and when this retired 
the Germans followed it up to Crevecoeur. Thence the division tried 
to get back to its original direction, crossed and became mixed up 
with the 22nd Reserve Division, and reached the heights north-west 
of Haucourt in the night, when it was considered too dark to attack. 
The 22nd Reserve Division was not in action at all ; its leading units 
reached CreveccEur and spent the night in that neighbourhood. 

The //. Corps (General von Linsingen), marching from Denain 
on Cambrai, was " held up by weak French cavalry bodies and 
" Territorial troops," and at night its leading units reached the 
billets assigned to them south-west of Cambrai. 

Marwitz's cavalry corps was assembled east of Cambrai after 
the IV. Reserve Corps came up, and " did not participate further in 
" the battle, and did not take up the pursuit of the British." At 
dusk it concentrated around Naves and Cauroir, two villages a 



couple of miles north-east and east of Cambrai. Of its losses, we 
are only told they were " relatively small." (Poseck, p, 63.) 

The German Official Account ends with the words : " the result 
" of the battle of Le Cateau was an uncontestable success for the 
" First Army.'''' An analysis of the day hardly confirms this claim. 

Of the 4| German corps (the ///., IV., IV. Reserve, II. and half 
of the IX.), that is nine divisions, within reach of the battlefield at 
dawn, we now know that General von Kluck managed to bring only 
two divisions (the 7th and 8th), with three cavalry divisions against 
General Smith-Dorrien's three. When the British general decided 
to stand, he fully expected to have to face the divisions of the German 
First Army which had been his opponents at Mons. It was the great 
concentration of German guns — the artillery of five divisions {5th, 
7th, 8th, 7th Reserve and 22nd Reserve) and three cavalry divisions, 
and sixteen 5-9-inch howitzers of the IV. Corps, against the artillery 
of three British divisions (the 4th Division without its 60-pdr. 
battery) and some of the guns of the Cavalry Division — which alone 
made the British stand difficult. Only on the right (east), however, 
where the German guns could enfilade the British line, was any 
impression made. Kluck's strong right wing of two corps {IV. 
Reserve and //.) was fortunately held up by the demonstrations of 
Sordet's cavalry corps and the 84th Territorial Division, and of his 
left (///. Corps), one division merely counter-marched outside the 
battlefield and the other marked time, its head covering only eleven 
miles between dawn and night. 


General d'Amade's Force on the British Left 
26th August 

The part played on the left of the British during the battle of 
Le Cateau by one of General d'Amade's divisions has been generally 
overlooked in English accounts, and receives only one line and a 
half in the French Official Account (i. (ii.) p. 50) : " in the afternoon 
" the enemy attacked Cambrai and drove back the 84th Territorial 
" Division, which retired on Marquion." The full story of its opera- 
tions has yet to be written, but sufficient is known to make it certain 
that this division accounted for the absence of the German //. Corps. ^ 
This corps had been ordered, on the evening of the 24th, to make a 
wide sweep to envelop the British left ^ and, on the 25th, as we have 
seen,^ swung westwards through Denain, and arrived at night with 
the heads of its columns about nine miles north of Cambrai and little 
more than that distance from the British left ; it was, in fact, eight 
miles nearer to it than the IV. Reserve Corps at Valenciennes, which 
attacked the British 4th Division about 2 p.m. on the 26th. 

The French 84th Territorial Division, which had been on the 
left of the British at Mons, retreated with them, and on the night 
of the 25th /26th its rear guards were opposing the passage of the 
Sensee canal by the western columns of the German //. Corps, at 

1 General d'Amade's 82nd Territorial Division was holding the Haute 
Deule canal and the other two the line Lens — Bethune. 

2 Kluck, p. 53. 3 Page 209. 


Bassin Rond and Paillencourt, just south of Bouchain and some six 20 Aug. 
miles north of Cambrai. 1914. 

During the 26th August the division was gradually pushed back 
to Cambrai, and then westwards through the town. To quote the 
words of the best available account : ^ — 

" The defence of Cambrai was organized along its north-western 
" front from the Pont d'Aire to Tilloy (both 1^ miles north of 
" Cambrai). . . . The attack developed on the morning of the 26th 
" at Escadoeuvres (1| miles north-east of Cambrai on the Solesmes 
" road). The outpost battalion of the 27th Territorial Regiment fell 
" back to the 'Pont Rouge ' and the railway ; the 25th Territorial 
" Regiment took up a position by the Schelde canal bridge. The 
" final stand was made in the suburb Saint Olle (on the western side 
" of Cambrai), which the staff of the 84th Territorial Division left 
" at 12.30 P.M. Captain Saglier, of the 27th, defended the barricade 
" near the church till about 2.15 p.m." 

The French 61st and 62nd Reserve Divisions were available to 
cover a retreat, but were not near enough to take part in the battle.^ 
These divisions were railed to the front from Paris, and, on the 25th 
August, detrained at Arras, twenty miles from Cambrai. General 
d'Amade, whose headquarters were in Arras, having received reports 
that columns of German troops were marching southwards through 
Orchies towards Bouchain, ordered the two divisions south-east 
towards Cambrai, part of them by train. They got as near as 
Marquion,^ six miles from Cambrai, on the afternoon of the 26th, 
when they received a special order from General Joffre ordering 
them back to Combles and Peronne with a view to the formation 
of the Sixth Army. They therefore turned westwards again, followed 
by the 84th Territorial Division, which was later in action at Marquion 
with the 14th Pomeranian Regiment (4th Division of //. Corps). 

Kluck's account claims that the //. Corps drove back strong 
French hostile forces on the 26th. But for the presence of the 84th 
Territorial Division there seems no doubt that the //. Corps would 
have taken part at Le Cateau with both its divisions. 

^ An article in " La Renaissance " of 25th November 1916, quoted by 
Colonel Bujac in his book " La Belgique envahie " (Fournier, Paris 1910). 

2 See F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 119 ; Hanotaux, vii. p. 298 ; and Palat, v. 
p. 134. 

^ Ouy-Venazobres, " Journal d'un officier de cavalerie," p. 23. 


THE RETREAT [continued) 

27th-28th august 
(Sketches A, 4, 10 & 12a ; Maps 3, 4, 12, 13, 14 & 15) 

Smith-Dorrien's Force 

Sketches Very soon after daylight on the 27th August, British 
Maps*3 troops began to pour into St. Quentin. The 1st Cavalry 
«& 13. ' Brigade and most of the 2nd were fed and sent a few miles 
south to Grand Seraueourt, where they arrived, men and 
horses completely exhausted. The duty of forming a 
covering screen to the north of the town was therefore 
assigned to the 3rd Cavalry Brigade (Br.-General H. de la 
P. Gough), which, together with the Composite Regiment 
of Household Cavalry, had reached a position at Homblieres 
just to the east of St. Quentin at 4 a.m. 

At 5 A.M. the 14th Brigade trudged into the town, 
received its rations and re-formed its battalions. Trains 
had already been ordered on the railway, as well as carts 
and wagons on the roads, for the conveyance of men who 
could march no further. The remainder of the 5th Division 
came in later, when the sun of a scorching day was 
already high in the heavens. Stragglers from the 3rd and 
4th Divisions who had drifted eastward — no doubt because 
the retirement had been commenced on the right — contri- 
buted to an appearance of confusion which was completely 
absent on the routes of those divisions themselves and of 
the battalions of the 5th Division, which marched into the 
town as properly formed bodies.^ After a halt of an hour 

^ An extract from the war diary of a unit of the French 1st Cavahy 
Division of this date deserves quotation : 

" We crossed the route of an Englisli battahon retiring after having 
" suffered very heavy losses. It moved in touching order : at the head, 
" imperturbable, a party of wounded. I ordered a salute to be given to 
" these brave men." 



or two for rest and food, the men recovered in an astonish- 27 Aug. 
ing fashion ; when they resumed their march, they were i^^-** 
no longer silent and dogged, but cheerfully whisthng and 
singing. The 5th Division then pursued its way, after a halt 
for the re-arrangement of the column, without any interfer- 
ence from the enemy, and before dark was in position south 
of the Somme about Ollezy, with its ranks and batteries 
sadly thinned, but ready again to meet the enemy. 

The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, acting as rear guard, was 
equally unmolested. It was joined at 10 a.m. by that part 
of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade (Br.-General H. de B. de Lisle) 
which had marched westward across the rear of the II. Corps 
on the 26th and retraced its steps eastward at dawn on the 
27th. Not until 2.30 p.m. was there any sign of the enemy 
advancing southwards in this quarter,^ and then the 3rd 
Cavalry Brigade fell back deliberately to Itancourt (4 miles 
south-east of St. Quentin), E Battery exchanging a few 
rounds with the German guns before it retired. West of 
St. Quentin, the 9th Lancers (2nd Cavalry Brigade) found 
contact with the enemy near Fresnoy, but did not with- 
draw from that place until 6 p.m. and then only to Savy 
(south-west of St. Quentin). There they and the greater 
part of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade took up their billets for the 
night, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade being on their right at Itan- 
court, and the 1st in support at Grand Seraucourt. 

Further to the west, the 3rd Division was hardly more 
molested than the 5th. After turning west from Bellicourt 
(8 miles north by west of St. Quentin), it halted from 9 a.m. 
until 1 P.M. at Hargicourt, and then continued its way south 
to Villeret (2 miles south-west of Bellicourt). There a small 
party of German cavalry, accompanied by guns, made some 
demonstration of pursuit, but, having no wish to engage what 
seemed to be British infantry, speedily retired when greeted 
by a few rifle bullets from the men of the 109th Battery. 
The division next marched to Vermand, where supplies 
were issued about 4 p.m., and at 10 p.m. it resumed its march 
to Ham. The 9th Brigade acted as rear guard throughout, 
having suffered little in the battle of Le Cateau. 

The 4th Division on the left was followed up rather 
more closely by the German cavalry. The 11th Brigade, 
from Serain, moved across country to Nauroy, just to the 
south-east of Bellicourt, on the morning of the 27th, and 
halted there at 8.30 a.m. to allow the 3rd Division to pass. 

^ The enemy seen, according to Billow's Sketch Map 2, was divisional 
cavalry of the i'll. Corps, the right of his Army. 


Rather more than an hour later the cavalry squadron of 
the 3rd Division reported the enemy's presence in the 
adjacent villages, and, before the brigade had left its billets, 
German guns opened on Nauroy at a range of a thousand 
yards. To cover the retirement of the brigade, Br. -General 
Hunter-Weston ordered Colonel S. C. F. Jackson of the 
Hampshire to engage the guns. Acting on these orders, the 
latter sent two parties to take up a position to the east of 
Nauroy and open fire on them. After an engagement with 
enemy's dismounted cavalry and cyclists, Colonel Jackson 
was wounded and taken prisoner, but his men stood fast 
until the retiring brigade was out of sight, and then with- 
drew, eventually rejoining the brigade on the high ground 
beyond the canal. The main body meanwhile had moved 
south-west to Villeret, picking up en route Major Prowse's 
party of the Somerset L.I. from Ligny, a party of the 1/Rifle 
Brigade under Captain Hon. H. C. Prittie, and other men 
who had stayed late on the battlefield. Thence the 11th 
Brigade, " fairly all right " as Br. -General Hunter-Weston 
reported, marched through Tertry, where it struck the 
divisional route to Voyennes. 

The 10th Brigade and 4th Cavalry Brigade (in touch with 
General Sordet's cavalry on the left) had meanwhile passed 
on to Roisel (8 miles south-west of Le Catelet), where both 
made a short halt ; the 12th Brigade, which had gone on 
with the artillery, deployed at Ronssoy (4 miles south-west 
of Le Catelet), with the Carabiniers, borrowed from the 4th 
Cavalry Brigade, at Lempire to cover it, as several German 
aeroplanes flying over the division and the appearance 
of a few cavalry scouts were indications that the enemy 
might be in close pursuit. Nothing, however, happened. 
The 10th Brigade then pursued its way to Hancourt, where 
it arrived at 4 p.m. The 12th Brigade retired from Ronssoy 
at 11 A.M., and reached Hancourt between 5.30 and 6 p.m., 
where Major Parker's party of the King's Own overtook 
it. At Hancourt, by divisional orders, these two brigades 
entrenched and rested, awaiting the enemy ; but none 
appeared. At 9.30 p.m. (all wounded and transport, which 
included many requisitioned and country wagons, having 
been sent off two hours earlier) the march of the 4th 
Division was resumed in inky darkness by Vraignes, Monchy 
Lagache and Matigny upon Voyennes. There was not the 
slightest hindrance from the enemy, but men and horses 
were so utterly weary that the usual hourly halts were 
omitted for fear that if the whole division were once halted 

THE 4th division 215 

and the men sat or lay down, they would never be got 27 Aug. 
moving again. 1914. 

The stoppages and checks inseparable from the march 
of a long column in the dark were doubly nerve-racking to 
the Staff during this period ; for not only might they mean 
that the division would be delayed and have incredible 
difficulty in restarting — as men were lying on the roads 
careless of whether wheels went over them or not — but also 
that enemy cavalry had cut in ahead or on the flank of the 
column. With strained ears the officers listened for firing, 
and only breathed again when the tremor of movement 
crept down the column and they heard the glad sound of 
the crunch of wheels on the road. Such was the discipline, 
however, that not a single shot was fired in alarm during 
this and the many other nights of marching in August and 
September 1914. Under direction of the divisional staffs, 
parties sent on ahead blocked all side and cross roads, so 
that units, even if gaps in the column occurred, could not 
go astray. Measures were taken by the interpreters ^ in 
all the villages passed through to detect the presence of 
spies, generally by the simple process of a language test. 
But for this precaution and the difficulties of adjusting the 
foreign harness of the requisitioned vehicles, officers and 
men might have dreamed, and many did dream, as they 
mechanically moved on that they were back at autumn 

The Carabiniers remained in position about Lempire till 
noon, by which time German infantry came into sight ; 
but, though heavily shelled, the 4th Cavalry Brigade with- 
drew unharmed to Hesbecourt, and after waiting there till 
2.30 P.M. fell back westwards in rear of the 4th Division by 
Bernes, Hancourt and Cartigny to Le Mesnil, thence going 
south, finally crossing the Somme after nightfall and reach- 
ing Rouy, near Voyennes, at 1 a.m. on the 28th. The 4th 
Division, three hours later — at 4 a.m. — began passing the 
Somme valley into Voyennes, at the very spot where Henry 
V. had crossed the river in his retreat northwards on Agin- 
court. At Voyennes Br. -General Hunter-Weston with the 
main body of the 11th Brigade rejoined. 

Thus by dawn on the 28th, Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien 
had practically brought the whole of his force to the south 
of the Somme, thirty-five miles from the battlefield of the 

^ A French officer or soldier was allotted to each Staff and unit as 
interpreter and go-between in business with the local officials. 


The position of the various formations was approxi- 
mately as follows : — ■ 

etches 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades : 

•^ '*• In a semi-circle, four miles south of St. Quentin, from 

"^ & 14. Itancourt, through Urvillers and Grand Seraucourt to 

The remainder of the force was south of the Somme, with 
rear guards on the northern bank. 
5th Division and 19th Brigade : 

South-west of the cavalry brigades, at Ollezy and Eaucourt, 
near where the Crozat canal meets the Somme. 
3rd Division : 

On the left of the 5th : 

7th Brigade — Ham, on the Somme. 
8th Brigade — On march to Ham from Vermand. 
9th Brigade — Ham. 
4th Division : 

On the left of the 3rd, at Voyennes on the Somme. 
4th Cavalry Brigade : 

On the left of the 4th Division, at Rouy. 

It was tolerably evident that the German pursuit, if it 
can be said ever to have been seriously begun, had been 
shaken off. There were, as a matter of fact, already some 
indications that General von Kluck was pressing south- 
westward rather than southward. General Sordet's cavalry 
corps and the 61st and 62nd Reserve Divisions had been 
in conflict with German troops about Peronne on the 
afternoon of the 27th, but British cavalry re-entering St. 
Quentin at dawn on the 28th found no sign of the enemy. 
These indications, however, came too late to be of any help 
to the British Commander-in-Chief on the 27th. As regards 
the German //. Corps, the most westerly of Kluck's Army, 
the reports of air reconnaissances in the early morning, 
taken in conjunction with General Smith-Dorrien's verbal 
report at midnight on the 26th/27th after the battle of Le 
Cateau, were reassuring. The road from Le Cateau was 
absolutely clear ; there were neither British rear guards to 
be seen north, nor German advanced guards south of a line 
drawn east and west through Peronne. But, near Guise, 
a heavy column ^ had been observed moving southward on 
the road between La Groise and fitreux (12 and 6 miles, 
respectively, north of Guise), besides other troops at Le 
Nouvion (10 miles north-east of Guise) ; and Sir John 
French had as yet no clear information to show whether 

^ Billow's X. Reserve Corps. 


these were friendly or hostile. Soon after 7 a.m. he received, 27 Aug. 
through the French Mission, an encouraging telephone ^^^■** 
message from French G.Q.G., that the Fifth Army had been 
ordered to make a vigorous attack abreast of Vervins — 
Guise against the enemy forces {Second Army) which were 
following it, and that Sordet's cavalry corps would protect 
the B.E.F. against an enveloping attack on the left. The 
enemy forces on the British front, it continued, appeared 
to be worn out and not in a state to pursue : in these cir- 
cumstances the B.E.F. could retire methodically, regulating 
its pace by that of the Fifth Army, so as not to uncover the 
flank of the latter. At 11 a.m. General Joffre visited Sir 
John French at Noyon to impress on him that he was 
already preparing his counter-stroke, but, in order to effect 
it, needed to fall back further than he had first intended to 
a line from Reims to Amiens, of which he proposed that 
the British should occupy the section between Noyon and 
Roye (12 miles north-west of Noyon). In furtherance of Sketch 
this plan, Sir John French, in a message timed 8.30 p.m., 12a. 
directed the II. Corps, with the 19th Brigade, to be clear ^^P^ ^ 
of Ham by daylight on the 28th, to march to Noyon and 
cross to the left bank of the Oise ; the 4th Division to cover 
the retirement from ground north of the Somme ; and the 
Cavalry Division to cover both the II. Corps and the 4th 
Division. He added an order that all unnecessary impedi- 
menta and all ammunition not absolutely required should 
be thrown away, so that vehicles might be available to 
carry exhausted men.^ 

On the 27th, although clouds made air observation 
difficult, the Flying Corps was asked by G.H.Q. to ascer- 
tain enemy movement from the line Cambrai — Landrecies 
southward, also any movement of enemy cavalry on the 
western flank, and to obtain news of the I. Corps. Communi- 
cation was established with the latter, and a message brought 
from General Haig ; but, as the German First Army was 
leaving the area which was to be reconnoitred, and the 
Second Army only just reaching it, little was seen of the 
enemy : the march of the German 7th Division from Le 
Cateau to Le Catelet was, however, correctly reported. 
Most of the troops seen on the roads were British, and one 
airman, who came down so low that he could distinguish 
khaki, was heavily fired on. A report stating that there 
were three battalions in Bernes (9 miles north-west of St. 
Quentin), on the eastern flank of the line of march of the 

^ Appendix 17. 


4th Division, was forwarded to Major-General Snow by 
G.H.Q., with the addition that they were probably Ger- 
mans. The officer despatched to reconnoitre soon estab- 
hshed that they were units of the 3rd Division. Troops 
were also reported marching westwards from Peronne ; 
these are now known to have been French. 

A spirit of pessimism, entirely absent from the three 
divisions which had fought at Le Cateau, seems to have 
prevailed at G.H.Q. in the evening ; for Colonel Huguet 
telephoned, for the information of General Joffre, that he 
had gathered the British Army would not be in a state to 
take part in the campaign again until after a long rest and 
complete reorganization : this for three out of the five 
divisions would require a period of several days, even 
several weeks, and under conditions which it was not yet 
possible to determine : the British Government might 
even insist that the whole force should return to its base 
at Havre in order to recuperate.^ 
ketches After the very strenuous efforts of the previous days, a 
J ^ ■*• further retreat with hardly a moment's rest was a very 
3^& 15. serious trial to the II. Corps, for many of its units were still 
on the march when the orders to continue reached them. 
At 4 A.M. on the 28th the 5th Division marched from Ollezy 
for Noyon, with frequent halts, since the day was oppressively 
hot. As many men as possible were carried on vehicles 
of one kind or another. The 52nd Battery of the XV. 
Brigade, far from being demoralized by the loss of all its 
guns, had already been formed into a corps of mounted 
rifles ; on its way it passed Sir John French himself, who 
praised its good work and assured it that this had not 
been done in vain, since the battle of Le Cateau had saved 
the left flank of the French Army.^ After a short halt at 
Noyon, the 5th Division moved on to Pontoise, and there 
at last went into billets. The 3rd Division followed, halting 
at Crissolles and Genvry, just short of Noyon, between 6 
and 7 p.m. Physically it was nearly worn out after march- 
ing sixty-eight miles in fifty hours, but morally its spirit 
was unbroken. Last came the 4th Division, not less 
exhausted than the rest. At 4 a.m. this division had 
received, by motor cyclist, G.H.Q. orders, issued at 8.30 
P.M. on the previous evening, to occupy a position north of 
the Somme ; but whilst preparations to do so were being 
made, later orders arrived about 6 a.m. directing it to be 

1 F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 56. 
* See General Joffre's message in Note III. at end of Chapter. 


ready to continue the retirement at 8 a.m. Leaving the 28 Aug. 
12th Brigade for a time on the northern bank to work in 1914. 
combination with the rear guard of the 3rd Division, the 
remainder of the division, which still consisted of artillery 
and infantry only, took up positions on the south bank of 
the Somme. The retirement was continued at 1.30 p.m., 
the 3rd Division having withdrawn its rear guard from 
Ham about an hour earlier. The 4th Division reached its 
halting-places, Bussy, Freniches and Campagne, just north 
of those of the 3rd Division, shortly before midnight. 

Meanwhile, of the Cavalry Division, the 3rd Brigade 
had extended eastward, seeking touch with the I. Corps, 
and its movements will be related in due course with those 
of that corps. The 1st Cavalry Brigade, after completing 
its reconnaissance at St. Quentin, fell back with great 
deliberation to the Somme at Ham, whence, having crossed 
the river, it moved southwards to Berlancourt. The 2nd 
Cavalry Brigade likewise fell back by Douilly upon Ham, 
and halted just north-east of the 4th Division at Le Plessis 
and Flavy le Meldeux. Patrols of German cavalry had 
been seen at Douilly, but no force of greater importance. 
The 4th Cavalry Brigade, on the extreme left, withdrew 
shortly before noon to Cressy, a short distance south of 
Nesle and four miles north of the 4th Division, leaving 
French cavalry and guns, with which it had been in touch, 
to deal with enemy troops reported to be at Mesnil, just 
north of Nesle. 

The worst trials of General Smith-Dorrien's force were 
now over. Since the 23rd August, the II. Corps had 
fought two general actions, besides several minor affairs, 
and had marched just over a hundred miles, measured on 
the map by the route taken by the 3rd Division. 

Haig's I. Corps 

At 1 A.M. on the 27th the Staff of the French Fifth Sketches 
Army arranged with General Haig that the road through A & 4. 
Guise should be left to the British ; ^ and, since there was i2*& 13. 
no choice but for the whole of the I. Corps to march by 
this single highway, unless part were sent by less direct 
roads on the west side of the Oise, all vehicles were " double- 
banked," and staff officers were sent forward to Guise to 
provide for the passage of two distinct streams of traffic 
through the town. The operation promised to be critical, 

^ The Reserve divisions crossed the Oise by bridges above Guise. 


in view of the gap between the I. and II. Corps having 
widened rather than decreased on the 26th, while to the 
north and north-east the enemy was reported to be in 
considerable strength. The situation was not rendered 
less anxious by a false report, which was current early 
in the afternoon, that the Germans were also in great force 
just to the north of St. Quentin. General Maxse's (the 
1st, Guards) Brigade was detailed as rear guard to both 
divisions ; General Bulfin's (2nd) Brigade as a western 
flank guard ; and the 2/Welch, with the 46th Battery 
R.F.A., as eastern flank guard. Great stress was laid on 
the importance of holding the enemy at a distance from the 
high ground on the north-west between Fesmy and Was- 
signy, so that he should be unable to bombard ]^treux, 
where supplies were to be issued to the troops as they passed 
through. The 5th Cavalry Brigade was sent well to the 
west on the other side of the Oise, with instructions to 
follow a route, parallel to the divisions, by Grougis, Aison- 
ville, Noyales and Hauteville. Meanwhile, Br. -General 
Chetwode, its commander, led it to a central position five 
miles to the west of I^treux, between Mennevret and Le 
Petit Verly, and pushed out patrols to the north and north- 

The corps was under way by 4 a.m., the 1st Division 
remaining in a covering position until the 2nd Division 
had all moved off. The latter reached its billets without 
the slightest molestation, but the march for the 5th Brigade 
from Barzy to Neuvillette (8 miles south-west of Guise) 
was long ; the 2 /Highland Light Infantry, in particular, 
having been employed in repairing the roads at dawn, 
did not arrive at its halting-place until 10 p.m., after a 
tramp of thirty miles. The false alarm of the enemy's 
presence at St. Quentin kept the entire division in move- 
ment longer than would otherwise have been necessary, 
for the 4th (Guards) Brigade was sent out westward as 
a flank guard, and the 6th Brigade spent the night en- 
trenching itself just east of the 5th, about Mont d'Origny. 

The 1st Division remained in position until late in the 
afternoon, with rear and flank guards out, waiting for the 
road to be clear ; but there was no sign of serious pressure 
upon the line north-west of ]5treux, to which so much 
[ap 12. importance was attached. In Br. -General Maxse's rear 
guard, the 1/Coldstream were about Oisy (2 miles north of 
Etreux), beyond the canal, and the 1 /Black Watch and 
1/Scots Guards just to the west of them, in touch with the 

fiTREUX 221 

western flank guard at Wassigny ; the R. Munster Fusiliers, 27 Aug. 
with two troops of the 15th Hussars and a section of the ^^^*- 
118th Battery R.F.A., all under Major P. A. Charrier of 
the Munsters, formed the rear party east of the Sambre 
canal, and had been under arms, facing north-east, since 
dawn. The general position of this party was four miles 
from ^iStreux, and extended for two miles, from Bergues 
through Fesmy to Chapeau Rouge, where it struck the 
north — south road from Landrecies to Etreux. The 
eastern flank guard was in position to the south-east, on 
the hill south of Bergues. The ground here falls gently 
westwards to the Sambre canal, which flows first on one 
side, then on the other, of the Landrecies road. The 
country lent itself to defence, being divided into small en- 
closures by thick hedges, which were passable at certain 
gaps only. During the morning a thick white mist lay 
upon the ground, and later there was a thunder-storm, so 
that visibility was never good. 

Two companies of the Munsters were about Chapeau 
Rouge as screen, watching the roads that run north-west- 
wards and northwards to Catillon and La Groise, and the 
remainder of the rear party were half a mile to the south- 
east in front of Fesmy. Later, half a company, and one 
troop of the 15th Hussars, were pushed south-eastwards to 
Bergues. No sign of the enemy was seen until 9 a.m., 
when a German cavalry patrol came down the road to 
Chapeau Rouge from the north, halted within five hundred 
yards, and fired a few shots. The Munsters made no 
reply, but the Germans did not come closer. There were 
indications of another column of the enemy to the north- 
east, moving south-westwards from Prisches upon Le 
Sart, straight at the centre of Major Charrier's force ; but 
its advanced party had galloped back on the appearance 
of a corporal of the 15th Hussars. By 9.30 a.m. all was 
again quiet, and Lieut. -Colonel C. B. Morland of the 
2 /Welch informed Major Charrier that he was going to 
withdraw the eastern flank guard to Boue (2 miles north- 
east of I^treux). Br. -General Maxse directed the Munsters 
to hold on to their position until ordered or forced to retire, 
and Major Charrier sent back word that, the choice of the 
route being left to him, he also should fall back by the 
road to Boue. The best part of an hour passed away, 
when, towards 10.30 a.m., German infantry came down 
again from the north-east and opened an attack on 
Bergues, which a little later was extended also to Chapeau 


Rouge. The Munsters being by this time entrenched, 
held their own with Httle difficulty ; the two guns found 
a target in a German column to the north-west, and all 
went well. 

At 11 A.M., whilst this action was in progress, the 3rd 
Brigade was at last able to start southward from Oisy ; 
at the same time Colonel Morland's flank guard also moved 
south upon Boue. The firing died away, and at noon 
Br. -General Maxse confirmed Major Charrier's choice of 
the road for his retreat, at the same time sending to all 
units of the rear guard their final instructions for retire- 
ment, the hour only being left blank. By 12.20 p.m. the 
road at l^treux was reported clear of all transport ; and 
a little later Br.-General Maxse despatched orders (time 
1 P.M.) to every unit of the rear guard, " Retire at once." 
This message, though sent by two routes, failed to reach 
the Munster Fusiliers. 

Meanwhile, at 12.30 p.m. or thereabouts, German 
infantry developed its attack in greater strength on both 
flanks, at Bergues and at Chapeau Rouge, though, as yet, 
without the support of artillery. As the pressure became 
heavier, in accordance with Major Charrier's orders the 
two companies at Chapeau Rouge gradually withdrew 
south-eastwards towards Fesmy. The men, finding good 
shelter in the ditches by the side of the road, worked their 
way back with very shght loss, and by shooting down 
the Germans as they showed themselves at the gaps in the 
hedges, forbade any close pursuit. The guns also opened 
fire, first towards the north, and later to the north-east, 
in which quarter the enemy was now observed to be 
in greatest force. Following up the Munsters slowly, the 
Germans delivered a strong attack upon Fesmy, their guns 
now coming into action for the first time ; but they made 
little progress. The Munsters' machine guns did very 
deadly work, firing down the road from Fesmy to Le Sart ; 
the Germans tried to mask their advance by driving cattle 
down on the defenders, but to no purpose. At 1.15 p.m. 
Major Charrier sent to Br.-General Maxse this short 
message : " Am holding on to position north of Fesmy 
" village, being attacked by force of all arms. Getting 
" on well. The Germans are driving cattle in front of 
" them up to us for cover. We are kilhng plenty of them." 

Thus holding his own. Major Charrier's chief anxiety 
was for his detachment at Bergues. He pushed out a 
platoon to the eastward, in the hope of gaining touch with it. 

ifiTREUX 223 

but the platoon was driven back by superior numbers. 27 Aug. 
The troops at Bergues were, in fact, about this time forced ^^i"*- 
out of the village and compelled to retreat southward to 
a farm ; here, after checking German pursuit by fire and 
then counter-attacking, the detachment retired westward 
to the Sambre canal, and thence down the road to Oisy. 

Meanwhile, Major Charrier continued his defence of 
Fesmy with great spirit ; he had now the whole of his 
battalion, except the half-company at Bergues, under his 
hand ; and he had need of them. So resolute was the 
onset of the Germans that, in places, they approached to 
within a hundred and fifty yards of the village ; a few 
actually broke into it and shot down two of the artillery 
wagon teams. Every one of these bold men was killed or 
captured, and at 1.50 p.m. Major Charrier sent off the last 
message which came through from him to Br.-General 
Maxse : " We have German wounded prisoners, who say 
" that about two regiments are opposing us and some guns. 
" They belong to the 15th Regiment.'" ^ 

About this time — 1.45 to 2 p.m. — the 2nd Brigade, the 
western flank guard, marched away from Wassigny for 
Hannapes, south of I^treux, with little hindrance ; the 
Northamptonshire, who brought up the rear, lost only four 
men, and claimed on their side from forty to fifty German 
troopers killed, wounded or taken prisoner.^ Thus the 
greater part of the 1st Division was now in motion to the 
south ; the 3rd Brigade was within an hour's march of 
Guise ; and there remained only the rear guard to bring off. 
Major Charrier, having struck the enemy hard, with little 
loss to himself, at 2.30 p.m. threw out flank guards wide upon 
each side and began his retreat upon Oisy. The movement 
was necessarily slow, the flanking parties being impeded by 
hedges, and it was some time before the rearmost of the 
Munsters and the two guns left Fesmy. At 3 p.m. the 
cyclist, who had failed to deliver the copy of Br.-General 
Maxse's final order to Major Charrier, reached the Coldstream 
Guards near Oisy, and gave them their instructions to retire 

^ They really belonged to the 15th Reserve Regiment, of the 2nd Guard 
Reserve Division {X. Reserve Corps) of the Second Army. The history of 
this regiment (p. 65) speaks of "receiving fire at every turn of the road, 
" whilst marching off it was impossible owing to the 2-metre high hedges, 
" threaded with wire and almost impenetrable. . . . ' Everywhere tliick 
" hedges ! We are always getting fired on, we can't tell from where,' cursed 
" the field-greys. The only course was to plaster the hedges with lead." 

^ They belonged to the 16th Uhlans, the corps cavalry of the Vll. Corps, 
the right of the Second Army (" Geschichte des Ulanenregiments Nr. 16," 
p. IOC). 


forthwith. Simultaneously, the detachment of the 15th 
Hussars and Munster Fusiliers from Bergues came into Oisy 
and took over the guard of the bridge there. But it was 
now evident that the gap between the rear guard and the 
corps was increasing rapidly, the 3rd Brigade being by this 
time at Guise, the 2nd Brigade closing in upon Hannapes, 
some five miles in rear, whilst the 1st, at another five miles 
distance, was still in position at Oisy. The 3rd Brigade 
was therefore halted at Guise, and the 1 /South Wales 
Borderers and the XXVI. Brigade R.F.A. were sent back 
north about three miles to Maison Rouge, where at 3.30 p.m. 
they took up a position to cover the retreat of the 1st 
(Guards) Brigade. 

By that hour the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards and 
Black Watch had begun to withdraw ; but neither the 
permanent bridge over the canal near Oisy nor the tem- 
porary timber structure south of it (made by the 23rd Field 
Company R.E. by felling trees, as the permanent bridge 
was in full view of the high ground adjacent) was blown up 
or destroyed, although prepared for demolition, as at the 
last moment the instructions to do so were cancelled by 
triplicate orders sent by the 1st Division, 1st Brigade and 
C.R.E. Shortly after 4 p.m. the rear-guard cavalry re- 
ported strong hostile columns moving south upon La Vallee 
Mulatre, immediately to the west of Wassigny, and the 
three battalions of the 1st (Guards) Brigade, upon reaching 
the level plateau to the south of iStreux, found themselves 
threatened from the north and west by a German cavalry 
division ^ and two batteries. There was a good deal of 
firing as they retired over the next three miles of ground 
to the southward, but it was confined chiefly to the artillery; 
for the enemy was held at a distance without much diffi- 
culty by the British batteries at Maison Rouge. Thus the 
three battalions reached Guise with trifling loss, the 5th 
Cavalry Brigade retiring parallel to them on the west. At 
dusk the firing died down, and the 1st Division went into 
bivouac, the 3rd Brigade at Bernot, just north of the 2nd 
Division at Mont d'Origny, at 9 p.m., and the 2nd and 1st 
Brigades at Hauteville and Jonqueuse, north-east and east 
of Bernot, at 11 p.m. The 2 /Welch of the eastern flank 
guard also reached Bernot at this hour : it had been much 
impeded by refugees, but, beyond a few rifle shots, had 
not been interfered with by the enemy. The 5th Cavalry 
Brigade also came into the same area for the night ; the 
^ The Guard Cavalry Division of Richthofen's corps. 

^TREUX 225 

detachment of 15th Hussars at Oisy marched southward 27 Aug. 
on to Mont d'Origny, which it reached at midnight. The ^^^'*- 
men were greatly fatigued by their long and trying day, but 
they had been little pressed by the Germans. A cavalry 
division had, indeed, appeared very late from the north- 
westward, but no infantry had threatened them from the 
north, and the reason for this must now be told. 

As it left Fesmy the rearmost company of the Munsters Map 12. 
had become engaged with German infantry, but was able 
to disengage and rejoin the main body of the battalion, 
then, about 5.45 p.m., half-way to l^treux, and continue its 
retreat. But as it approached the village, Germans were 
seen crossing the road ahead, and fire was opened not only 
by German infantry from the houses on the northern out- 
skirts, but from a battery not more than fifteen hundred 
yards away to the eastward. Then for the first time the 
Munsters began to fall fast. One of the two guns of the 
section of the 118th Battery was disabled, a single shell 
destroying the whole team. The other gun was promptly 
brought into action against the German artillery, but over 
three hundred rounds had already been fired, and ammuni- 
tion was very nearly exhausted. Still undaunted. Major 
Charrier pushed forward two companies to clear the way 
through I^treux ; but the Germans had installed them- 
selves in the trenches dug during the forenoon by the Black 
Watch, and also occupied a house, which they had loop- 
holed, west of the road. A house east of the road now 
burst into flames, evidently giving the signal for a converg- 
ing attack from all sides upon the Munsters. Major Charrier 
ordered the remaining gun to be brought up to demolish the 
loopholed house, but the range was so short that the team 
and detachment were instantly shot down. A third com- 
pany, which was supporting the advance of the two com- 
panies, was then sent to make an attack on the railway- 
cutting to the east of Ltreux station. In spite of enfilade 
fire, both of infantry and artillery, the company worked up 
to within seventy yards of the cutting and charged. The 
men were mowed down on all sides, and only one officer 
reached the hedge, with one man, who was then killed by 
his side. 

Meanwhile Major Charrier had led three charges against 
the loopholed house, in one of which his adjutant actually 
reached the building, and fired his revolver through a loop- 
hole, only to drop stunned by a blow from falling brick- 
work. These gallant efforts were all in vain. It was now 



7 P.M. The Germans attaeked from south, east and west, 
and, though temporarily driven back at one point by a 
bayonet charge, continued to advance. Major Charrier 
was shot dead alongside the deserted gun on the road, and 
so many officers had by this time fallen, that the command 
devolved upon Lieutenant E. W, Gower. Collecting such 
men as were left, he formed them in an orchard, facing to all 
points of the compass, and continued to resist. Gradually 
the Germans crowded in on them from three sides, bringing 
fresh machine guns into position, and at 9.15 p.m. they 
closed in also from the north, and the little band of not more 
than two hundred and fifty of all ranks with ammunition 
almost spent, was overpowered. The Munsters had been 
fighting against overwhelming odds for nearly twelve hours, 
and discovered at the end that they had been matched 
against at least six battalions of the 7Srd and 77th Reserve 
Regiments, of the 19th Reserve Division, besides three of the 
15th Reserve Regiment of the 2nd Guard Reserve Division, all 
forming part of the X. Reserve Corps. Beyond question, 
they had arrested the enemy's pursuit in this quarter for 
fully six hours, so that their sacrifice was not in vain. 

The situation at midnight of the 27th/28th August was : 

Iketches I. Corps (less a brigade). On the high ground south- 

^ & 4. wards of Guise from Long- 

^^^xJ^A champs to Mont d'Origny. 

5th Cavalry Brigade and 4th West of the river Oise about 

(Guards) Brigade. Hauteville and Bernot. 

At dawn on the 28th, although the weather was still 
extremely hot, the retreat of the I. Corps on La Fere was 
resumed under more favourable conditions ; for, although 
two German divisions were reported from eight to twelve 
miles north of St. Quentin, the rumour that they were 
actually in that town turned out to be false ; ^ moreover, 
the French XVIII. Corps was now in touch with the British 
on the east. The transport had begun to move off at 2 a.m. 
In addition to a rear guard, a flank guard (under Br.- 
General Home) consisting of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, 5th 
Brigade and XXXVI. Brigade R.F.A., was thrown out to 
the west ; and the rear guard, the 2nd Brigade with a 
brigade of artillery and a squadron, held the heights of Mont 
d'Origny during the passage of the main body through 

1 On the night of the 27th/28th, the German III., IV. and IV. Reserve 
Corps of the First Army were G miles north-west of St. Quentin on a front 
facing south and south-west. 

3 & 14. 


Origny. Nothing was seen of the enemy until shortly after 28 Aug. 
noon, when a German column of all arms appeared, work- ^^i^- 
ing round towards the right rear of the 2nd Brigade ; 
about 12.30 p.m. its guns opened fire, but with little effect.^ 
The infantry then made some semblance of attack, but 
was easily held at a distance, and at 2 p.m. the last of the 
British battalions marched off, covered by infantry of Vala- 
bregue's Reserve divisions, w^hich occupied the position 
as they vacated it. The I. Corps then made its way, 
always by a single highroad, towards La Fere. The march 
was again most trying, for on the greater part of the w'ay 
battalions, as well as transport, were " double-banked," 
and a swarm of refugees added to the congestion. Thus, 
choked with dust, on an airless, oppressive day, the I. 
Corps at last reached La Fere, crossed the Oise southwards, 
and, in the course of the afternoon, reached its billets : — 
the 1st Division just south of La Fere at Fressancourt, 
Bertaucourt and St. Gobain ; the 2nd Division further to 
the westward at Andelain, Servais and Amigny. 

It remained to be seen whether the German cavalry 
would press into the gap between the I. and II. Corps, 
which was still some fifteen miles wide. On this day the 
3rd Cavalry Brigade had been pushed eastwards by Major- 
General Allenby to gain touch with the I. Corps, ^ Early in 
the forenoon the brigade was in position six or seven miles 
south of St. Quentin, between Cerizy and Essigny, when at 
10 A.M. firing was heard to the north, and this was followed 
shortly afterwards by the appearance of French (84th 
Division) Territorial infantrymen retiring south from St. 
Quentin through Essigny.^ Learning from them that they 
had been surprised by German cavalry and artillery at 
Bellenglise, Br. -General Gough withdrew his right, the 4th 
Hussars, southwards from near Essigny to Benay, to cover 
their retreat. After a time, his patrols reported a brigade 
of Uhlans to be advancing on Essigny and a second column 
of all arms further to the east, moving on Cerizy. About 
1 P.M. an advanced party of Uhlans was caught in ambush 
by the 4th Hussars about Benay and dispersed with loss, 
their killed being identified as of the Guard Cavalry 
Division. The column in rear of them thereupon attempted 

^ From Billow's map, the column would appear to belong to the A'. 
Corps then, with the rest of the Second Army, moving south-westward. 
Later in the day, that Army turned south. 

^ See page 219. 

* The bulk of the division retired from Cambrai on the 26th via Doullens, 
Amiens and Poix, where it remained until the 11th September. 


to work round Br. -General Gough's eastern flank, but was 
stopped by the guns of E Battery R.H.A. Thus what 
seems to have been the western column of the Guard Cavalry 
Division was brought, with comparative ease, to a standstill. 

The eastern column of the German cavalry was more 
enterprising, but no more successful. As commander of 
the left flank guard of the I. Corps, Br. -General Home had 
sent the whole of the 5th Cavalry Brigade to the western 
bank of the Oise, and, at 10.30 a.m.. Sir Philip Chetwode 
moved it to Moy, a village nearly abreast and 2 miles east 
of Cerizy, where he halted in the Oise valley. Leaving the 
Scots Greys on outpost, with the 20th Hussars in close 
support, on the high ground to the north-west by La 
Guinguette Farm, he rested the remainder of the brigade 
in Moy. About noon the enemy came into sight, advancing 
south along the main road from St. Quentin. Upon this a 
squadron of the Scots Greys, with a machine gun, was sent 
to occupy a copse on the eastern side of the road a little to 
the north of La Guinguette Farm (on the St. Quentin — La 
Fere road, |- mile east of Cerizy), with one troop pushed for- 
ward to a building near the road about half a mile ahead, 
and a section of J Battery R.H.A. was unlimbered about 
half a mile to the south-east of the copse. The advanced 
troop of the Greys was driven back by superior numbers, 
but all attempts of hostile patrols to penetrate to La Guin- 
guette were foiled by the fire of the remainder of the 
squadron. At length, at 2 p.m., two squadrons of the enemy 
advanced in close formation on the eastern side of the road, 
and, being fired on both by the Greys and by the two guns, 
there dismounted. Most of their horses, terrified by the 
bursting shells, galloped away, and the troopers, after dis- 
charging a few rounds, also turned tail. Br. -General Chet- 
wode at once ordered the rest of J Battery into action and 
directed the 12th Lancers, with two squadrons of the 
Greys in support, to move round the enemy's eastern flank, 
and the 20th Hussars to advance along the St. Quentin 
road and turn him from the west. The dismounted Ger- 
mans meanwhile made off in all haste, but the leading 
squadron, C, and the machine-gun section of the 12th 
Lancers, hurrying northward, caught sight of a body 
mounted about eight hundred yards away moving in close 
formation towards Moy. Attacking it with fire, the 12th 
Lancers compelled the Germans to dismount, and then 
stampeded their horses. The two other squadrons and J 


Battery now coming into action, C squadron mounted and, 28 Aug. 
led by Lieut. -Colonel F. Wormald, approaching over dead ^^^*- 
ground, got within fifty yards of the enemy and charged. 
Some seventy or eighty of the Germans, who proved to be of 
the 2nd Guard Dragoon Regiment, were speared. The 12th 
Lancers lost one officer and four men killed, and their 
lieutenant-colonel and four men wounded. Further pur- 
suit would obviously have been imprudent, but Br. -General 
Chetwode remained on the ground long enough to collect 
all his wounded — his casualties did not exceed thirty — and 
to ascertain that his guns had played such havoc with the 
German reserves that their total losses might fairly be 
reckoned at three hundred killed and wounded. Finally 
towards evening, he and Br. -General Gough fell back inde- 
pendently, the former to the left of the I. Corps, to Sinceny 
and Autre ville, the latter to rejoin the Cavalry Division, 
west of the Oise canal at Frieres (6 miles W.N.W. of La 
Fere) and Jussy (just north of Frieres), Though the action 
of Cerizy had been comparatively insignificant, it very 
effectually damped the ardour of the German cavalry.^ 

General Situation on Night of 28th/29th August 

When all movements had been completed on the night Sketches 
of the 28th/29th August, the I. Corps was south of the ^a^s^ls 
Oise and of La Fere ; the II, Corps, with the 4th Division, & 15. 

1 The Chaplain of the Guard Cavalry Division, Dr. Vogel, gives the Map 3. 
following account of this action. After relating the march of the division 
on the 28th August from La Groise via Wassigny and Bohain to Homblieres 
(3 miles east of St. Quentin), which it reached at 1 p.m., and a fight around 
St. Quentin with two battalions of the French 10th Territorial Infantry 
Regiment (Kluck says that his III. Corps was also engaged there) which 
lasted until 7 p.m., he states that " a report came from the Dragoon 
" Brigade that it was in a severe action east of Urvillers [4 miles north- 
" west of INIoy whence the British 5th Cavalry Brigade had moved], 
" It had stumbled on what appeared to be weak enemy infantry in 
" the wood south-west of the village, and had attacked with three 
" squadrons dismounted, intending to charge with the other three. 
" It turned out, however, that the brigade had to deal, not with dis- 
" organized fugitives, but with a strong detachment of the intact Franco- 
" British Army which had advanced from La Fere. This was evident from 
" the lively infantry fusillade which they received as they ajjproached 
" mounted. It was not easy to get clear, but with the assistance of a 
" battery, the brigade succeeded in withdrawing behind the hill north of 
" the wood, which was held by the Guard SchiUzenbataillon. Some British 
" squadrons also which had deployed to charge were driven back by our 
" guns, which opened at just the right moment. The 3rd Guard TJhlans 
" now reinforced the troo])S holding the hill. A troop of the Dragoons, 
" under Lieutenant Graf Schwerin, was ridden over by British Hussars, 
" The wounded, amongst whom were men with six or seven lance wounds, 
" and several bullet wounds, were taken prisoner by the enemy." 


was north and east of Noyon, with one division south of 
the Oise. Thus, the two wings of the Army were still 
11 miles apart, the gap between them being more or 
less covered by cavalry on a curve from the left of the 
I. Corps to the northern end of the II. Corps. On the 
right, the British were 6 miles in rear of the left of the 
French Fifth Army, but on the left in touch with Sordet's 
Map 3. In detail, the positions of the British were : 

I. Corps : 

On the northern edge of the Forest of St. Gobain and 
Coucy, from Fressancourt to Amigny. 
5th Cavalry Brigade : Sinceny. 

II. Corps (including 4th Division, 19th Brigade and Cavalry 

Division) : 
1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades : 

At Berlancourt, Flavy le Meldeux — Plessis, and Jussy, 
3rd, 4th (with 19th Brigade) and 5th Divisions : 

From Freniches, south and east, through Genvry to 
4th Cavalry Brigade : 

Cressy (3 miles south of Nesle) north-west of the 4th 

From the 28th onward every day was to bring the two 
wings closer to each other. Sir John French, after meeting 
some of the 5th Division on the march, as has already 
been told, had motored on to La Fere to see the I. Corps, 
and had satisfied himself as to the good spirit of the troops. 
He had also received the promise of the 6th Division from 
England about the middle of September and of a com- 
plete corps from India at a later date. Other important 
intelligence also reached him. The troops of General 
d'Amade, together with General Sordet's cavalry corps, 
had been seen in action between Peronne and Bray sur 
Somme, but by evening it appeared that they had been 
pressed back. There was good reason to believe that the 
German Supreme Command judged the British Army 
to be beaten beyond hope of speedy recovery, and were 
intent upon extending their enveloping movement west- 
v/ards until they could sweep all opposing forces into 
their net. 

On the 28th at 7.55 a.m., G.H.Q. asked for air recon- 
naissance of the area Peronne — Montdidier — Compiegne 
" to locate hostile cavalry, possibly believed to be about 


" Peronne to-night," and of the area La Fere — Peronne — 28 Aug. 
Guise, to locate hostile columns. The first-named area i^i'** 
actually contained only a few French troops, and nothing 
was seen of the German //. Cavalry Corps which, late in 
the day, reached an area just north-west of Peronne. In 
the second area a number of columns (now known to be 
the 6th and 7th Divisions of the First Army and the VII. 
and X. Reserve Corps of the Second Army) were seen and 
all reported moving west between St. Quentin and Le 
Catelet. The positions of the I. and 11. Corps were also 
discovered and reported. 

General Joffre, during his visit to Sir John French Sketch 
on the 27th, had mentioned the preparation of a counter- ^^a. 
stroke and the formation of a new Army on his left. The 
first sign of it was seen on this day in the arrival of units 
between Amiens and Ham. This Army, the Sixth, under 
General Maunoury, was to be formed between the British 
and General d'Amade. As a beginning, the VII. Corps,i 
brought from Belfort, was detraining at Villers Bretonncux, 
to the cast of Amiens, and a Moroccan brigade was already 
assembled further to the east.^ On the same day General 
Joffre — his Western Armies being on the general line 
Reims — Amiens — ordered the French Fifth Army to take 
the offensive towards St. Quentin along a line parallel 
to the Oise from Guise to La Fere, hoping at best to strike 
an effective blow which might check the German advance, 
and at least relieve the British Army from all further 

On the evening of the 28th August, two corps (XVIII. 
and III.) of the French Fifth Army proceeding westwards 
were halted, in echelon, south of the Oise, east of Guise, 
under cover of the X. Corps, the I. Corps being in reserve 
to the south-east. General Lanrezac's troops were thus 
in touch with, but in advance of, the British Army. During 
the day. General Valabregue's Reserve divisions, which 
since the night of the 25th/2Gth, as already described, had 
marched so close to the I. Corps as sometimes to share its 
roads, had had hard fighting at the Oise bridges near Guise, 

^ 14th Division and 63rd Reserve Division. The 13th Division remained 
in Alsace. 

^ According to Kluck, Marwitz's cavalry corps " was surprised in its 
" billets [near Peronne] by the French Gist and 62nd Reserve Divisions 
" (of d'Amade's force) on the morning of the 28th. The French, however, 
" were driven from the field at Manancourt (7 miles S.W. of Bapaume) 
" by parts of the II. Corps and IV. Reserve Corps."" This was the action 
of Mesnil. 


had lost the bridges and withdrawn at nightfall to the left 
of the line of the Fifth Army.^ 

Sir John French issued orders at 11.30 p.m.^ for the 
British to halt and rest on the 29th, but with the condition 
that all formations should be withdrawn to the south of 
a line practically east and west through Nesle and Ham, 
connecting with the French at Vendeuil. During the 
evening of the 28th, Sir Douglas Haig was asked by General 
Lanrezac to co-operate in his coming offensive. He 
agreed to do so, but, on informing G.H.Q. of the request, he 
received instructions that he was not to take part. The 
Field-Marshal, who seems to have continued to take a 
gloomy view of the state of his troops, was anxious to 
withdraw them from the line of battle for eight or ten days 
to some locality where they might rest and be re-equipped, 
and he accordingly arranged with General Joffre that they 
should fall back to a line a little to the south of the Aisne 
between Soissons and Compiegne. The situation was 
complicated by the fact that Kluck's sweep westwards had 
compelled the evacuation of the British advanced base at 
Amiens. On this day the suggestion was first made that 
St. Nazaire, at the mouth of the Loire, should take the place 
of Havre as the principal sea base of the British force in 

It may be mentioned here that, with the view of creat- 
ing a diversion on the western flank to assist the British 
Expeditionary Force and of supporting the Belgians, one 
battalion of R. Marine Artillery and three battalions of 
R. Marine Light Infantry, under command of Br. -General 
Sir George Aston, were landed at Ostend on the 27th 
and 28th August. They were re-embarked on the 31 st.^ 
News of this landing appears to have reached the German 
Supreme Command on the 30th.* 

1 See Note II. " The Battle of Guise," at end of Chapter XI. 

2 Ap])endix 18. 

3 For details see Sir Julian Corbett's " Naval Operations," i. pp. 92-4 
and 12;3-4. The so-called brigade was without a signal section or office 
staff ; the battalions were in blue serge, had no horses, no transport, not 
even Ist-line ; no machine guns ; and the rifle ammunition was not 

* With regard to it the head of the Operations Branch of the German 
General Staff has written : — 

" At this time there was, as may be imagined, no lack of alarming 
" reports at General Headquarters. Ostend and Antwerp took a prominent 
" part in them. One day countless British troops were said to have landed 
" at Ostend and to be marching on Antwerp ; on another that there were 
" about to be great sorties from Antwerp. Even landings of Russian 
" troops, 80,000 men, at Ostend were mentioned. At Ostend a great 



Movements of the German First and Second Armies 


What became of the German First and Second Armies after the 27 Aug. 
battle of Le Cateau will now be related. 1914. 

On the 26th August, Biilow ^ had issued orders for the continu- Sketch 1 
ation of the pursuit in a " sharp south-westerly direction ... as Map 3. 
" sullicient elbow room had to be obtained for the great wheel of the 
" Third, Fourth and Fifth Armies round Verdun." " After con- 
" tinuous fighting with French rear guards," the /. Cavalry Corps 
and three and a half corps of the Second Army ^ reached an approxi- 
mate S.E. and N.W. line a little in front of Avesnes, the cavalry 
and X. Reserve Corps moving to Marbaix, where they had the fight, 
already related,^ with the Connaught Rangers ; but the Second 
Army took no part in the battle of Le Cateau. 

On the 27th, after Le Cateau, Kluck, making a late start, in the 
belief that the British " would endeavour to escape south-westwards 
" in order not to lose communication with their ports " (G.O.A., 
i. p. 528), moved his troops about twelve miles in a south-westerly 
direction : — III. Corps via Maretz to Nauroy, IV. Corps to Belli- 
court — Vendhuille, //. Corps, with II. Cavalry Corps in front, to 
Sailly Saillisel — Fins (5 miles south-east of Bapaume) ; the IV. 
Reserve Corps followed between the II. and IV. Corps to Roisel — 
— Lieramont. The IX. Corps (less the 17th Division) marched 
from Maubeuge \ia Le Cateau some five hours later than the rest 
of the Army, and billeted in and about Busigny. Except for en- 
counters with the Gordons and parties of stragglers on the night of 
the 26th/27th, he had no information of the whereabouts of the 
British beyond "that they were in full retreat" (G.O.A., i. p. 529). 
Even on the night of the 27th he was " by no means clear of the 
" direction taken by the British in their retreat. . . . Aviators 
" during the night of the 26th /27th had reported the retreat of 
" strong enemy columns from Landrecies on Guise [I. Corps] and 
" from Avesnes on Vervins [French] ; it was probable that the enemy 
" in his further retreat would try to turn more to the west or south- 
" west. The retreat to the west was, however, denied to him on 
" the evening of the 27th by the //. Corps.'' (G.O.A., i. p. 531 .) There 
is no mention of any air reports on the 27th. The only fighting 
that Kluck records is isolated encounters of the //. Corps and 
cavalry with General d'Amade's forces on the British left, at Heude- 
court and westwards ; the identifications obtained thereby added to 

" entrenched camp for the English was in preparation. [Aston's men did 
" commence digging.] . . . Though, of course, the security of the rear and 
" right flank of the army required constant attention, such, and even worse 
" information, could not stop the advance of the troops." (Tappen, p. 22.) 

1 Bulow, p. 29. 

2 The 13tli Division was left behind at Maubeuge, where General von 
Zwehl took charge of the investment with the VII. Reserve Corps (less 
13th Reserve Division on march from Namur), and the 17lh Division of 
the IX. Corps. The 13th Division rejoined the Second Army in the nick 
of time to take part in the battle of Guise. 

* See page 203. 


the obscurity of the situation. Regardless of any danger threatening 
his right flank, he determined to push on at all speed for the passages 
of the Somme. 

The Second Army (still without the 13th Division) reached a S.E. 
and N.W. line through fitreux, where, as already narrated, the X. 
Reserve Corps, on its western flank, ran into the Munster Fusiliers.^ 
The German Official Account (i. p. 532) speaks of the 27th August 
as being " a day of pure marching, in general, without contact with 
" the enemy." 

During the day, Kluck was released from Billow's command ; 
he was therefore free to make a wide turning movement to the west, 
instead of being tied to the Second Army in order to assist it to tactical 

On the 28th, therefore, the First Army sent on cavalry and field 
batteries in pursuit of d'Amade's forces, and there was rear-guard 
fighting ; the remainder of the Army moved south-west across the 
British front. The III. Corps got no further than Bellenglise — 
outskirts of St. Quentin, owing to the opposition met with from 
French Territorials, British cavalry and stragglers ; the heads of 
the three corps on the right just reached the Somme, on a front six 
miles on either side of Peronne ; the IX. Corps was still a march 
behind on the left. 

In the Second Army, Biilow ordered the Guard and X. Corps on 
his left (east) to stand fast and reconnoitre, since the French Fifth 
Army was on their front behind the Oise, whilst his right swung 
round in touch with the First Army. " I. Cavalry Corps,'' he 
ordered, " will endeavour to attack the British in the rear, moving 
" round the south of St. Quentin " ; the VII. Corps (less 13th Divi- 
sion) was to march early to St. Quentin ; the X. Reserve Corps was 
to make a short march of about six miles south-west from Etreux. 
Except for the cavalry fight at Cerizy ^ and the right of the X. 
Reserve Corps brushing against the rear guard at Mont d'Origny,^ 
all touch with the British was lost. Biilow does not say what places 
the above-named corps reached by evening, but he records that in 
the afternoon of the 28th he received a message from Kluck asking 
him to deal with the disorganized English forces, which appeared to 
be falling back on La Fere. He therefore ordered the X. Reserve and 
VII. Corps (less 13th Division) to push on westwards, towards the 
passages of the Somme and the Crozat canal near Ham and St. 
Simon (4 miles east of Ham), which they reached on the 29th. 

Thus the B.E.F., though at first foflowed by the right of the 
Second Army and the left of the First, escaped from pressure on the 
28th owing to the gap between these Armies steadily increasing to 
some fourteen miles. 

During the evening of the 28th an officer from O.H.L. brought 
to Biilow and Kluck " General Directions for the Further Conduct of 
" Operations." * These directions foreshadowed a wheel inwards of 
the two great wings of the German forces, the right wing in accord- 
ance with the original plan, and the left wing by an advance through 
the French eastern fortresses, so as to bring about a surrender of 
the French Armies in the open field. They seem of sufficient im- 
portance to translate in full, and are as follows : — 

" It is most important by a rapid march of the German forces on 

1 See page 221. " See page 228. » See page 226. 

4 G.O.A., iii. pp. 7-10. 


Paris to prevent the French Army from coming to rest, to stop 28 Aug. 
the assembly of fresh bodies of troops, and to take from the country 1914. 
as much as possible of its means of defence. 

" Belgium is placed under a German Governor- General and a 
German Administration. It is to serve as the hinterland for supply 
of the First, Second and Third Armies, and thus shorten the lines 
of communication of the German right wing. 

" His Majesty orders the advance of the German forces in the 
direction of Paris. 

" The First Army, with the II. Cavalry Corps attached, will 
march west of the Oise towards the lower Seine. It must be pre- 
pared to co-operate in the fighting of the Second Army. It will 
also be responsible for the protection of the right flank of the forces, 
and will take steps to prevent the enemy from assembling fresh 
bodies of troops in its zone of operation. The detachments 
(///. Reserve and IX. Reserve Corps) left behind for the investment 
of Antwerp are placed immediately under O.H.L. The IV. 
Reserve Corps is again put at the disposal of the First Army. 

" The Second Army, with the /. Cavalry Corps attached, will 
advance \ia the line La Fere — Laon on Paris. It will also invest 
and capture Maubeuge, and later La Fere ; also Laon in co- 
operation with the Third Army. The /. Cavalry Corps will recon- 
noitre on the fronts of both the Second and Third Armies, and will 
send any information obtained to the Third Army. 

" The Third Army will continue its march via the line Laon — 
Guignicourt, westof Neufchatel, on Chateau Thierry. Hirson will 
be captured, also Laon with Fort Conde in co-operation with 
the Second Army. The I. Cavalry Corps, on the front of the 
Second and Third Armies, will provide the Third Army with in- 

" The Fourth Army will march via Reims on Epernay. The 
IV. Cavalry Corps, attached to the Fifth Army, will also send 
reports to the Fourth Army. Any siege material required for the 
capture of Reims will be provided. The VI. Corps is transferred 
to the Fifth Army. 

" The Fifth Army, to which the VI. Corps is transferred, will 
advance against the line Chalons sur Marne— Vitry le Francois. 
It will be responsible for the flank protection of the forces, by 
echelonning back its left wing, until the Sixth Army can take 
over this task west of the Meuse. The IV. Cavalry Corps remains 
attached to the Fifth Army, but will reconnoitre on the fronts of 
the Fourth and Fifth Armies, and send reports to the Fourth Army. 
Verdun will be invested. Besides the five Landwehr brigades from 
the Nied position, the 10th and 8th Ersatz Divisions are also 
assigned to it, as soon as they can be spared by the Sixth Army. 

" The Sixth Army, with the Seventh Army and the III. Cavalry 
Corps, in touch with Metz, has first to prevent an advance of the 
enemy into Lorraine and Upper Alsace. The fortress of Metz is 
placed under the Sixth Army. If the enemy retires, the Sixth 
Army, with the ///. Cavalry Corps, will cross the Moselle between 
Toul and Epinal, and take the general direction of Neufchateau. 
This Army will then be responsible for the protection of the left 
flank of tiie forces. Nancy and Toul are to be invested ; Epinal 
is to be masked with sufficient troops. In this case the Sixth Army 
will be reinforced by portions of the Seventh Army {XIV. and XV. 


" Corps and one Ersatz division) ; but the 10th and 8th Ersatz 
" Divisions will be handed over to tlie Fifth Army. The Seventh 
" Army will then become independent. 

" The Seventh Army will at first remain under the Sixth Army. 
" If the latter crosses the IMoselle, the Seventh Army will become 
" independent. The fortress of Strasbourg and the Upper Rhine 
" fortifications, with the troops in them, will remain under it. The 
" Seventh Army will prevent an enemy break-through between Epinal 
" and the Swiss frontier. It is recommended that strong defences 
" should be constructed opposite Epinal, and from there to the 
" mountains, also in the Rhine valley in connection with Neubrei- 
" sach, and that the main strength should be kept behind the right 
" wing. The XIV. and XV. Corps, as well as one of the Ersatz 
" divisions, will then be transferred to the Sixth Army. 

[The lines of demarcation between the Armies follow.] 

" All Armies will mutually co-operate with one another, and 
" support each other in fighting for the various lines which are to 
" be gained. The strong resistance which may be expected on the 
" Aisne and, later, on the Marne, may necessitate a wheel of the 
" Armies from a south-westerly to a southerly direction. 

" A rapid advance is urgently desirable in order to leave the 
" French no time to re-organize and offer serious resistance. The 
" Armies will therefore report when they can begin the advance. 
" The Armies on the wings are recommended to attach infantry, 
" in addition to Jdger battalions, to their cavalry divisions as 
" required, in order to break any resistance of franc-tireurs and 
" civilian inhabitants as quickly as possible. Only by severe 
" measures against the population can a national rising be nipped 
" in the bud." 

A completely erroneous appreciation of the situation appears 
to have been current at O.H.L. at this time. It furnishes a clue to 
the apparently haphazard way in which the German Armies moved, 
and is so extraordinary that it is best, perhaps, to quote the words 
of the Chief of the Operations Section ^ : — 

" The French, as expected, had offered battle to prevent us 
" from penetrating into France. The highly favourable reports that 
" came in daily, as late as the 25th August, in conjunction with the 
" great victory of the Sixth and Seventh Armies in Lorraine on the 
" 20th and 25th, aroused in Great Headquarters the belief that 
" the great decisive battle in the West had been fought and con- 
" eluded in our favour. Under the impression that there had been 
" a ' decisive victory,' the Chief of the General Staff resolved on the 
" 25th, in spite of arguments to the contrary, to detach forces to the 
" East. He believed the moment had come when, in conformity 
" with the great operations plan, a decisive victory in the West 
" having been won, considerable forces could be sent to the East to 
" obtain a decision there also. For this purpose six corps were 
" detailed, among them the XI. Corps and Guard Reserve Corps 
" (besieging Namur). . . . Only after the whole extent of the victory 
" at Tannenberg became known was the order cancelled as regards 
" the four corps to be taken from the centre and left ; one of these, 
" the V. Corps of the Fifth Army, was actually awaiting entrainment 
" at Thionville. On the subsequent days further reports of suc- 

1 Tappen, pp. 18, 19. 








" cesses came in. After O.H.L. had issued instructions on the 26th 28 Aug. 

" and 27th for the continuation of the operations on the basis that 1914, 

" great victories had been gained, the First Army reported on the 

" 28th August that it had defeated the British Army, and that it 

" was already half-way between the Belgian frontier and Paris. . . . 

" The idea that the French retirement was according to plan was 

" only expressed by a few solitary individuals." 

Tills statement may be partly designed to throw some of the 
blame on the Army commanders, for forwarding misleading reports 
of victories, but the despatch of the two army corps to Russia and 
the bringing of the V. Corps out of the line are established facts. 
There was certainly good reason for sending reinforcements to the 
Eastern theatre. On the 19th/20th the German Eighth Army had 
fought the unsuccessful battle of Gumbinnen, the Russians had 
invaded East Prussia, and, although Generals von Hindenburg and 
Ludendorff had been sent to supersede Generals von Prittwitz and 
von Waldersee and retrieve the situation, the result of the battle of 
Tannenberg, begun on the 23rd August, was still in doubt. In both 
the Austrian theatres Germany's Ally had been defeated. In the 
southern, the invasion of Serbia had failed, and by the 25th August 
all Austrian forces had recrossed the frontier, beaten. In the 
Galician theatre, although the opening fighting had seemed to be in 
Austria's favour, the First Battle of Lemberg, begun on the 26th, 
was going against her, largely owing to her Second Army, recalled 
from Serbia, not having reached the field. If she were not to be 
overwhelmed, she would require substantial help before the date 6th 
to 10th September (36th to 40th day of mobilization), for which it 
had been promised by the German Chief of the General Staff. 


Movements of the French Fifth Army from 
Charleroi to Guise 

The general line of retirement of the French Fifth Army after Map 3. 
Charleroi was south-westwards, its orders being to reach the line 
Laon — La Fere. The movements of General Valabregue's two 
Reserve divisions in contact with the British I. Corps have been 
mentioned. The XVIII. Corps (35th, 26th and 38th (African) 
Divisions), on their right, retired via Avesnes, and crossed the Oise 
at Romery (4 miles east of Guise). The III. Corps, next on the 
right (5th, 6th and 37th (African) Divisions), followed in echelon 
behind the XVIII. ; it passed the French frontier on the 25th and 
marched through Fourmies (10 miles south-east of Avesnes), and 
crossed the Oise between Etreaupont and Ohis. The X. Corps 
marched via La Capelle to Hirson, first south and then south-east, 
to keep in touch with the Fourth Army, and thence to Vervins. 
The I. Corps, from the right of the Army, after reaching Tavaux 
(7 miles south of Vervins), was brought north-west into second line 
between the III. and X. Corps. 

Thus, by the evening of the 28th August, the Fifth Army was 
drawn up facing north and north-west behind the Oise from Ver\ans 
practically to La Fere, in the following order : 4th Cavalry Division, 
51st Reserve Division, X. Corps, III. Corps, XVIII. Corps, Vala- 


bregue's Reserve divisions, with the I. Corps coming up into second 
line. The German Second Army was in contact with the whole 
front of the Fifth Army, and had secured a bridgehead at Guise. 


General Joffre's Congratulatory Telegram 

Dated 27ih August 1914. 

Commandant en Chef des Armees Frangaises a Commandant 
en Chef Armee Anglaise Noyon Oise. No. 2425. 

L'Armee anglaise en n'hesitant pas a s'engager tout entiere 
contre des forces tres superieures en nombre a puissamment con- 
tribue a assurer la securite du flanc gauche de I'Armee Fran9aise. 
Elle I'a fait avec un devouement, une energie et une perseverance 
auxquels je tiens des maintenant a rendre hommage et qui se re- 
trouveront demain pour assurer le triomphe final de la cause com- 
mune. L'Armee Frangaise n'oubliera pas le service rendu ; animee 
du meme esprit de sacrifice et de la meme volonte de vaincre que 
I'Armee Anglaise, elle lui aflirmera sa reconnaissance, dans les 
prochains combats. Joffre. 


British Losses 23rd to 27th August 1914 
(Excluding Missing who returned to their Units) 

23rd. 24th. 25th. 26th. 27th. 
(Mons.) (Le Cateau.) 

Cavalry Division . . 6 252 123 15 14 

I. Corps : 

1st Division . . 9 42 32 61 826 

2nd Division . . 35 59 230 344 48 

II. Corps : 

3rd Division . . 1,185 557 357 1,796 50 

5th Division . . 386 1,656 62 2,631 76 

4th Division . . . . . . 65 3,158 58 

19th Infantry Brigade 17 40 36 477 108 

1,638 2,606 905 8,482 1,180 

The British losses at Waterloo were 8,458 (Wellington Despatches, 
vol. xii.). 



Retreat of B.E.F. 
Fositions at night are shown by datPS. 






28^ Chaunyo_ 
Noyon t)\^^0^ 


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•^O Ribemont 

la Fere 

28 & 29 


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''<"*' -^ :.J^^ soissoN, 








yCompiigne Pierrefonik 
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Ordyj&jiee Survey, 1920. 


THE RETREAT {continued) 

(Sketches A, 8, 9, 10 «fe 11 ; Maps 3, 4, 14, 16, 17 & 18) 

29th August 

Except for some minor adjustments to secure the best Sketches 
ground possible, in the course of which the 4th Division ^{^ ^^^ 
had moved back a Httle to the area Bussy — Sermaize — ^^^^^ 
Chevilly, the morning of the 29th August found the B.E.F. 
halted in its over-night positions on the Oise. To the right 
front of the British was the French Fifth Army, and to 
their left front the newly-formed French Sixth Army, 
General Maunoury's headquarters being at Montdidier.^ 
In pursuance of General Joffre's directions, the Fifth Army 
began the battle of Guise by attacking towards St. Quentin 
against the German Second Army ; ^ at the same time the 
outer wing of the German First Army, swinging south- 
westwards, was engaged with General Maunoury's Army, 
and there was fighting at Proyart (10 miles south-west of 
Peronne) and Rosieres (6 miles south of Proyart). 

For the British, except the cavalry, much of the 29th 
was a day of rest, devoted to repairing the wear and tear 
of the strenuous days through which they had passed. 

The enemy was by no means wholly inactive on the 
British front. At 5 a.m. the 16th Lancers were driven out 
of Jussy (10 miles south of St. Quentin) on the Crozat canal 

^ At this time, General Maunoury's Army consisted of the VII. Corps 
(14th Division and 63rd Reserve Division), 55th Reserve Division (just 
arrived from the Army of Lorraine), the Gist and G2nd Reserve Divisions, 
a Moroccan infantry ^brigade, two battahons of Chasseurs Alpins and a 
Provisional Cavalry Division (General Cornulier-Luciniere) formed from 
Sordet's cavalry corps, the rest of this corps having gone back to Versailles 
to refit. The 5Gth Reserve Division arrived during the evening of the 
29th August. 

« See Note II. " The Battle of Guise," at end of Chapter. 



by Jdger and machine guns/ but they held their own until 
the bridge over the canal had been destroyed, when they 
and the rest of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade fell back slowly 
to Chauny (6| miles W.S.W. of La Fere). Before 8 a.m. 
reports came in that German infantry and guns were 
crossing the Somme at Pargny and Bethencourt well away 
to the north, ^ and soon after the 2nd Cavalry Brigade 
lying north of Smith-Dorrien's divisions was engaged with a 
force of all arms ^ advancing from the direction of Ham. 
The brigade retired with deliberation to Guiscard, which it 
reached at 11 a.m., and thence went southward. To sup- 
port it, the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division took position 
at Crissolles (3 miles north of Noyon), and the 4th Division 
sent a battalion to Muirancourt (2 miles north of Crissolles). 
By 1 P.M. it was apparent that nothing serious was going 
forward : the general trend of Kluck's Army was still 
decidedly to the west of south, clear of the British, and 
Billow's was engaged with the French. At 4.15 p.m., in 
accordance with G.H.Q. instructions, General Smith- 
Dorrien issued orders for a short withdrawal of his force, 
to bring the whole of it south of the Oise and nearer to the 
I. Corps. At 6 p.]^. the troops began their march : — the 
3rd Division to Cuts, the 5th to Carlepont, and the 4th to 
the north of Carlepont, leaving a rear guard of the 10th 
Brigade north of the Oise. The main bodies of all three 
divisions reached their destinations between 9 p.m. and 
midnight. The 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades followed 
them. Thus by midnight practically the whole of General 
Smith-Dorrien's force, except the rear guard, had crossed 
to the south of the Oise, and during the night the engineers 
of the 5th Division blew up behind it the bridges over the 
Oise and Oise canal. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, on its right 
front, billeted for the night at Chauny, and the 4th Cavalry 
Brigade five miles west of Noyon, at Dives. This south- 
eastward movement of the II. Corps reduced the gap 
between it and the I. Corps to seven miles. 

Throughout this day the I. Corps enjoyed undisturbed 
repose. During the afternoon General Joffre visited Sir 
John French at Compiegne, whither G.H.Q. had moved 
from Noyon on the 28th. In view of the general situation, 

^ The 5th Cavalry Division is said to have driven off a British brigade 
supported by artillery (Poseck, p. 74). 

^ The 18th Division according to Kluck's map. 

3 This according to Vogel was part of the Guard Cavalry Division of 
the /. Cavalry Corps which was filling the gap between the First and 
Second Armies. 


he was most anxious that the B.E.F. should remain in Hne 29 Aug. 
with the French Armies on either flank, so that he could ^^^^• 
hold the Reims — Amiens line, which passed through La 
Fere, and attack from it.^ 

Sir John French, however, in view of the exertions of 
the British Army, and its losses in officers and men, and 
even more in material, was equally anxious to withdraw 
and rest it for a few days, in order to make good defects. 
He did not consider that it was in condition to attack ; 
but it was not until 9 p.m.,^ when it became known that 
the left of the French Fifth Army was unable to -make pro- 
gress against the Germans, that he issued orders for further 
retreat to the line Soissons — Compiegne, behind the Aisne. Sketch A. 
He also warned Major-General F. S. Robb, the Inspector- Maps 3 
General of Communications, that he had decided to make *" 
" a definite and prolonged retreat due south, passing Paris 
" to the east or west." 

Air reconnaissances made during the day showed 
German columns sweeping southwards over the Somme 
between Ham and Peronne, coming down on the French 
Sixth Army, and between the Oise and Somme west of 
Guise ; the airmen reported many villages behind the 
German front in flames. From the French came the in- 
formation that the forces engaged with the right of the 
Fifth Army were the Guard, X. and X. Reserve Corps ^ 
and that the rest of Billow's Army and part of Kluck's 
were closing on its left. Without the B.E.F. to fill the gap 
between his Fifth and Sixth Armies, even if their initial 
operations had been successful. General Joffre felt that he 
could not, in view of the general situation, risk fighting on 
the Reims — Amiens line. His orders for the retirement 
of the Fifth Army were issued during the night of the 

1 See page 217. 

^ Appendix 19. 

' The German situation at that time was roughly as follows. The 
Second and First Armies formed a gigantic wedge, of which the apex lay 
a little south of Ham : the Second Army, under General von Biilow, 
extending from Etreaupont on the Oise nearly to Ham, with its front 
towards south and south-east ; the First Army, under General von Kluck, 
from Ham to Albert, with its front to the south-west. Both of these 
Armies were already weaker than the German Supreme Command had 
originally intended. The First Army had been obliged to leave the III. 
Reserve and IX. Reserve Corps to invest Antwerp ; and upon this day the 
Guard Reserve Corps of the Second Army, as well as the XI. Corps of the 
Third Army (relieved by the fall of Namur), after marching back to Aix 
la Chapelle, began to move by rail to the Russian front. Further, the 
Second Army had to leave the VII. Reserve Corps and part of the VII. 
Corps to invest IMaubeuge. 



29th/30th, but " owing to an error in transmission," ^ they 
did not reach General Lanrezac until 6 a.m. on the 30th, 
and did not begin to take effect until about 8.30 a.m., 
when, without let or hindrance, the French I. and X. Corps 
began to withdraw. 

30th August 

ketches Sir John French had left the time of starting to be 

f ^ *\^\" settled by his corps commanders. The I. Corps began its 
17^ ' march southwards at 3 a.m., covered on the eastern flank 
by the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and on the western by the 
3rd. The day was intensely hot, and in the Forest of St. 
Gobain the air was stifling. Since crossing the Somme, 
the British had passed into a rugged country of deep wood- 
lands, steep hills, narrow valleys and dusty roads. Severe 
gradients and crowds of refugees multiplied checks on the 
way. Such was the exhaustion of the men that it was 
necessary to curtail the march, and the 1st Division was 
halted for the night some eight miles north of Soissons, with 
its head at Allemant, with the 2nd Division a little to the 
south-west of it about Pasly. In the evening alarming 
reports were received by General Haig from the French 
Fifth Army, by telephone from Laon, stating that a large 
force of German cavalry was advancing in the direction of 
Noyon towards the south-west of Laon, that is, between 
Laon and Soissons. General Lanrezac made repeated 
appeals to the I. Corps to move out north-eastwards from 
Soissons to fill the gap and protect the left of his Army. 
As neither the Cavalry Division nor the I. Corps rear guards 
had seen or heard of any enemy cavalry in the area men- 
tioned, or east of the Oise, until the evening, when enemy 
parties were seen on the heights west of Soissons, no atten- 
tion was paid to the appeals. There was practically no 
interference from the enemy on this day. The rear guard 
of the Cavalry Division was slightly engaged by Uhlans at 
8 A.M., and two parties of engineers were fired on whilst 
engaged in destroying the bridges over the Oise, but 
completed their work. The bridge at Bailly, although the 
charges were placed, was not blown up in consequence of 
a written order, timed 8.45 a.m., from the II. Corps, which 
reached the R.E. officer, Lieut. F. C. Westland of the 7th 
Field Company, at the bridge at 10.30 a.m.^ 

1 F.O.A., i. (ii.), p. 517. 

2 The message ran : " if bridge has not already been destroyed it is 
" not to be blown up. This order overrules any other order you may 


The II. Corps, together with the 4th Division and the 30 Aug. 
]9th Brigade — the two latter from this day constituted 1914. 
the III. Corps under Lieut. -General W. P. Pulteney — after 
a few hours' rest on conclusion of its night march, con- 
tinued its movement south-east, and halted on the Aisne 
about Attichy, the 10th Brigade having been skilfully with- 
drawn without mishap by Br. -General Haldane from its 
rear-guard position beyond the Oise. The 5th and 3rd 
Cavalry Brigades lay for the night at Vauxaillon, between 
the 1st and 2nd Divisions, and at Fontenoy on the Aisne, 
between the I. and II. Corps, respectively ; the 1st, 2nd and 
4th Cavalry Brigades were reunited under the hand of the 
divisional commander, on the left of the Army, round 
Compiegne.^ The gap between the two wings of the B.E.F. 
was now reduced to six miles. 

General Lanrezac had little diflfiiculty in carrying out his 
retirement, though the Germans, apparently emboldened 
by news from their aviators that the French were with- 
drawing, looked for a time as if they meant to continue 

" receive to blow it up." Tlie officer, with a corporal, remained at 
the bridge without any covering party until 5.30 p.m. awaiting orders, 
and then left. Subsequently orders were sent to the 4th Division to 
destroy the bridge, and an attempt was made after dark ; but Major 
J. B. Barstow and the men of his party were killed by a volley at 
about fifteen yards' range, fired, according to Vogel, by the cyclists of the 
Guard Jdger. The suspension bridge over the Oise at Pontoise (3 milek 
south-east of Noyon) in the II. Corps area was not rendered unservice- 
able at the first attempt to destroy it. About 8 a.m. on the 30th a motor 
cyclist, Lieut. R. R. F. West (Intelligence Corps), brought the officer 
commanding 59th Field Company R.E. (5th Division) a private note from 
Major M. P. Buckle, D.S.O., second in command of 1/R. West Kent (13th 
Brigade) — killed in action 27th Oct. 1914 — informing him that the bridge 
was still passable, and asking if anything could be done. Lieut. J. A. C. 
Pennycuick, R.E., immediately volunteered to return with Lieut. West. 
The motor bicycle was loaded up with a box of 14 guncotton slabs, and 
Lieut. Pennycuick sat on top, his pockets filled with fuze, detonators and 
primers. The two officers then rode back the eight miles, passing first 
infantry and then through the cavalry rear guard. They climbed up one 
of the suspension-cables and placed 13 slabs on the cables on top of the 
pier, the fourteenth falling into the river. The first detonator failed, only 
powdering the primer ; a second attempt was made and was successful : 
the top of the pier was blown off and the cables cut, and the bridge 
crashed down into the river. No enemy appeared during the operation, 
and the two officers returned safely, after breakfasting at a farm eti route. 
They both received the Distinguished Service Order. 

Throughout the retreat there was considerable confusion with regard 
to the responsibility for the demolition of bridges, the full story of which 
will be found in RIajor-General Sir R. U. H. Buckland's articles in the 
" Royal Engineers Journal " 1932, " Demolitions at Mons and during the 
Retreat 1914." 

^ See page 247. 


the attack, particularly on his left wing ; but by noon the 
movement was well under way, and the Germans seemed 
content to let him go.^ 

General Maunoury's Army had also received orders to 
retire, and had fallen back, after sharp fighting, from the 
Avre south-westward to a line from Estrees St. Denis 
(where his right was within five miles of the British at Com- 
piegne) to Quiry. Kluck had shown signs of a change of 
direction, for his left or inner wing had wheeled nearly due 
south, though his right was still, for the present, moving 
south-west upon Amiens. From the air nothing could be 
seen of the VII. Corps to the south of Ham, where it was 
expected (it is now known it was near St. Quentin, the 
14th Division having been sent back to help the X. Reserve 
Corps), and it was surmised that it was concealed ; but the 
columns of the 6th and 5th Divisions marching south on 
Roye, and the 7th on Rozieres, were observed and reported. 
This seemed to indicate, though as yet the movement was 
too imperfectly developed to make it certain, that Kluck 
either considered Maunoury's force to be for the moment 
powerless for any offensive action, or that he believed him- 
self to have gained the position that he desired for the 
envelopment of the western flank of the Allied Army. 
The British Army he reckoned, as the German official 
bulletins testify, to have been thoroughly beaten on the 
26th and following days ; and, as from a captured letter he 
heard of Sir John French's anxiety to give it rest,^ his 
appreciation in this respect was less faulty than it may since 
have seemed. If Maunoury's force could also be dismissed 
as negligible, there was nothing to hinder Kluck from 
wheeling south-east against the open left flank of the 
French Fifth Army, annihilating it in conjunction with 
Billow, and then rolling up the French line from west to 

On the morning of the 30th General Joffre, considering 
that the defence of Amiens and the line of the Somme had 
ceased to be of any utility in view of the retirement of the 
left wing, ordered General d'Amade to withdraw his Terri- 
torial divisions on Rouen and reconstitute them on the left 
bank of the Seine. To General Maunoury's enquiry, what 
would now be his mission and the direction of his retreat, the 

1 The Second Army was given a rest day on the 31st (Bulow, p. 44, 
Kluck, p. 76). 

2 Kluck, p. 81. 

' Billow had called upon Kluck for this very purpose. See page 250. 


French Commander-in-Chief rephed : " Your general direc- 30 Aug. 
" tion of retreat is on Paris. Do not let yourself be caught ^^i'** 
" and held. Take as your first position of retirement the 
" one which you propose," which was Compiegne — St. Just. 
He placed Sordet's cavalry corps under the Sixth Army. 
Later in the day General Maunoury reported that on the 
31st he proposed to fall back to the line Verberie (on the 
Oise) — Clermont — Beauvais (35 miles west of Compiegne), 
which was approved of by G.Q.G.^ 

On a telephone request from General Joffre, conveyed to 
him before 7 a.m. on the 30th by the French Mission, Sir 
John French agreed to stay the retreat of his troops and con- 
tinue to fill the gap between the Fifth and Sixth Armies, 
of which the B.E.F. was a day's march ahead. In thanking 
the British Commander-in-Chief for this assistance, General 
Joffre informed him of the order for retirement behind the 
Serre (which flows into the Oise at La Fere) which he had 
given to the Fifth Army, and told him of his further in- 
tentions in these terms : — 

" I have in view the general retirement of the forces, 
" avoiding any decisive action, so as to hold out (durer) as 
" long as possible. But in the course of these movements, 
" it will be of the greatest importance that the British Army 
" keeps in constant liaison with the Fifth Army, so as to be 
" able to profit by favourable opportunities and administer 
" to the enemy another severe lesson like that of yesterday." 

At noon, however. Sir John French gave Colonel Huguet 
a message, written by his own hand, to be telegraphed to 
General Joffre. In this he said that " the new plan of 
" retreat having been explained to me, I consider it ab- 
" solutely necessary to inform you that the British Army 
" will not be in a state to take its place in the line for ten 
" days. I am short of men and guns to replace losses 
" which I have not been able to ascertain exactly owing 
" to the uninterrupted retreat under the protection of 
" fighting rear guards. You will understand in these 
" circumstances that I cannot comply with your request 
" to fill the gap between the Fifth and Sixth Armies, that 
" is to say, on the line Soissons — Compiegne." ^ 

1 F.O.A., i. (ii.) pp. 516-7. 

* Neither the Field-Marshal nor any of his chief advisers had been near 
the fighting troops since the 28th, and he seems to have been unaware of 
the complete recovery of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Divisions from the hard 
day of Le Cateau. Only the 5th Division had suffered any important loss 
of gims ; the I. Corps had hardly been engaged, and General Haig had 
indicated its state by liis readiness to co-operate with the French at Guise. 


Sir John French proposed to retire " westwards " 
behind the Seine, to an area just west of Paris ; ^ but it was 
pointed out to him by the French General Staff that such 
a march would cross the communications of the Sixth 
Army. He therefore agreed, at General Joffre's suggestion, 
to retire in the first instance by the east of Paris, behind 
the Marne between Meaux and Neuilly, so that, if necessary, 
he could pursue his retirement westwards by the south of 
the capital. At the same time, the French Commander-in- 
Chief informed his Government of Sir John French's state 
of mind. 

At 5.15 P.M. G.H.Q. issued amended orders ^ for the 
B.E.F. to move south, the I. Corps and 5th Cavalry 
Brigade to the area about Villers Cotterets ; the II. Corps, 
on the west of the I. Corps, to the area Feigneux — Bethisy 
St. Martin — Crepy en Valois ; the III. Corps further to the 
north-west, to the area St. Sauveur — Verberie ; and the 
Cavalry Division, most westerly of all, to the line of the 
Oise beyond Verberie. General Allenby was subsequently 
informed that, as the French had closed in on the British 
left, he could use the area between the III. Corps and the 

31sT August 

On the 31st, which saw the completion of the German 
victory at Tannenberg, the British accordingly resumed 
their march under the same trying conditions of dust, heat 
and thirst as on the previous day. The I. Corps opened 
the operations with the passage of the Aisne in two columns, 
at Soissons and just west of it. The transport was often 
in difficulties, owing to the steep gradients of the roads 
to the south of the river, and the scarcity of water every- 
where was a great trial to both men and horses. Once 
again the infantry was wholly untroubled by the enemy — 
the men of the 6th Brigade actually had time for a bathe 
in the Aisne — and the cavalry rear guards, which covered 
the march, were never really pressed. The 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade had to keep some Uhlans at a distance when 
crossing the Aisne 6 miles west of Soissons at Fontenoy ; 
and heads of German columns were reported at Noyon 

^ Maps of the area from Paris westward to St. Nazaire were ordered 
by the Sub-Chief of the General Staff to be procured for issue to the troops. 
See also " Annals of an Active Life " (p. 206), by General Sir Nevil 
Macjeady, who was at the time Adjutant-General to the B.E.F. 

* Appendix 20. 


and south of it on the road to Compiegne.^ In this quarter, 31 Aug. 
west of the Oise, the 3rd Hussars {4th Cavalry Brigade) i^^^- 
were in touch with hostile patrols from daybreak onward, 
the enemy's force gradually increasing until it drew the 
whole regiment into action. The fight was, however, 
broken off without difficulty, and at noon, the 3rd Hussars 
retired, having suffered trifling loss and killed a good many 
troopers of the German 3rd Hussars — divisional cavalry 
of the German ///. Corps — which, by a curious coincidence, 
were opposed to them. 

The heat of the day, the difficulty of the country and 
the exhaustion of the troops, however, compelled the 
greater part of the Army to stop short of their intended 
destinations. The I. Corps halted for the night on the Map 18. 
northern, instead of on the western side, of the Forest 
of Villers Cotterets, midway between it and the river 
Aisne : 1st Division around Missy, 2nd Division around 
Laversine. The left of the French Fifth Army, which was 
continuing its retreat, was near Vauxaillon, 12 miles to 
the north. 

The II. Corps halted at Coyolles, south-west of Villers 
Cotterets, and at Crepy en Valois : 3rd Division on the 
east, 5th Division on the west. 

The III. Corps, after a flank march through the Forest 
of Compiegne, reached its allotted area, at the south- 
western corner of the forest about Verberie, but at a 
late hour, some units not taking up their billets before 
10 P.M. The corps was separated by a gap of some five 
miles from the nearest troops of the II. Corps at Crepy, 
but in touch with the French on its left, some of the Sixth 
Army troops actually being in Verberie. 

The 5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades halted in the same 
area as the I. Corps. Of the other brigades, the 4th was 
with the III. Corps at Verberie, and the 2nd west of it at 
Chevrieres, in touch with the French Sixth Army, which, 
on this evening, reached the Chevrieres — Beauvais line. 
The 1st Cavalry Brigade and L Battery R.H.A. on the 
western flank of the Army had moved out soon after dawn 
on the 31st from Compiegne on the road towards Amiens, 
and had remained halted for a considerable time, on the 
watch for German troops advancing in that quarter. 
Seeing no sign of any, the brigade, after a wide sweep 

1 The German III. Corps crossed the Oise in two cohimns at Noyon 
and Ribecourt, and Marwitz's cavalry crossed near Compiegne (see 
Kluck's map). 


westward, recrossed the Oise to Verberie, and made its 
way to Nery, there to form a Unk — though it could not fill 
up the gap — between the II. and III. Corps. It did not 
reach its destination until dusk, and L Battery did not 
join it until half an hour later. 

Aerial reconnaissance upon this day confirmed the fact 
that Kluck had reached the limit of his western advance, 
and was wheeling south-eastward, covering his southern 
flank with his cavalry.^ The columns of the 18th, 6th, 5th, 
7th, 8th, 3rd and 4th Divisions marching towards the Oise 
were reported, the heads of the first three close to it, and 
at 1 P.M. it was noticed that cavalry was moving south- 
east from the river at Thourotte, and that the road and 
railway bridges at Compiegne were blown up. At least 
two cavalry divisions were known to have reached the 
Oise during the afternoon of the 31st ; and it appeared 
that three actually crossed the river between Noyon and 
Compiegne, two of which were reported to be moving east 
upon Vauxaillon, while the third was passing through 
Bailly (8 miles north-east of Compiegne) at 2.30 p.m.^ The 
capture of a trooper of the German 8th Hussars, by the 
2/Royal Welch Fusiliers after a brush with a German patrol 
towards dusk to the north-west of Verberie, seemed to 
indicate the presence of the German 4th Cavalry Division 
in this quarter. A heavy German column, reckoned to be 
ten thousand strong, was also reported to have reached 
Gournay (about eight miles north-west of Compiegne) at 
3 P.M., and to be moving south. ^ A captured order issued 
to the 8th Division of the German IV. Corps from Beau- 
court (14 miles south-east of Amiens) at 6.45 a.m. on the 
31st, also revealed the project which was in Kluck's mind 
at the time. The order gave the information that the 
French troops (Maunoury's) on the Avre had been defeated 
on the 29th and had withdrawn ; that the British were 
retreating south-eastward (sic) ; and that Biilow had 

1 For the German movements see Note I. at end of Chapter. 

2 According to Kluck, on the 31st Marmtz's three cavalry divisions 
{2nd, 4th and 9th) crossed the Oise at Thourotte, and thence marched 
through the Forest of Laigue to Attichy on the Aisne, but Poseck (p. 7G 
and map) puts them at night about six miles south of Compiegne. 
Richthofen's two divisions (Guard and 5th) reached Noyon on the 30th, 
and moved on the 31st across the British front via Bailly and Ribecourt 
to Vauxaillon, actually between the British and the left of the French 
Fifth Army. General Lanrezac's fears of the previous day had materialized, 
but the German cavalry did not persevere. The two di\isions {Guard and 
Stli) passed the night north of Soissons, and next day remained just north 
of the town. 

8 These are now known to have been French troops. 


defeated at Guise the French Fifth Army, large bodies of 3i Aug. 
which were retiring through La Fere ; and it set forth ^^^'*- 
that the task of the German First Army was to cut off 
the retreat of that Army. It concluded: "Again, therefore, 
" we must call upon the troops for forced marches." ^ 

However, at the moment, the one thing clear to Sir John 
French was that the German First Army, which had prac- 
tically left the British Army alone since the 26th, was again 
closing in upon it in great force. During the day several 
telegrams passed between him and the Secretary of State 
for War and between G.Q.G. and G.H.Q. Lord Kitchener's 
communications clearly showed the surprise and consterna- 
tion of the Government at the course which the British 
Commander-in-Chief was taking in withdrawing the B.E.F. 
from the fighting line, and their fear of its effect on the 
French. The latter had replied that he had already been 
left several times in the lurch by his Allies, that if there 
was a gap in the line it was their affair, and that the force 
under his command in its present condition could hardly 
withstand a strong attack from even one German corps : 
General Joffre had informed him in writing that, according 
to reports received, the Germans were withdrawing numer- 
ous troops {XI. and Guard Reserve Corps) from France for 
transfer to the Eastern Front, and that General Lanrezac's 
attack at Guise on the 29th had been a real check for the 
German Second Army, as Biilow's delay in the resumption 
of his advance was demonstrating. General Joffre had 
further stated that the Fifth and Sixth Armies now had 
instructions not to yield ground except under pressure ; 
but that they could not of course be expected to stand if 
there was a gap between them. " I earnestly request 
" Field-Marshal French," he wrote, " not to withdraw the 
" British Army until we are compelled to give ground, and 
" at least to leave rear guards, so as not to give the enemy 
" the clear impression of a retreat and of a gap between the 
" Fifth and Sixth Armies." 

In spite of these suggestions and requests, at 8.50 p.m. 
Sir John French issued orders for the retreat to be con- 
tinued on the morrow. 2 

1 Haiiptmann Bloem relates that the three battaUon commanders of 
his regiment made a protest to the regimental commander with regard 
to the excessive marching and were met by the brief reply " Sweat saves 

* Appendix 21, 




Movements of the German First and Second Armies 
29th to 31st August 

The movements of the German right wing on the 30th and 31st 
August had a decisive effect on the campaign. Instead of pursuing 
his march towards the lower Seine, as ordered by O.H.L. on the 
28th, and making a wide sweep which might have caught in it 
General Maunoury's Army and the B.E.F., Kluck wheeled his Army 
south-eastwards towards the Oise, in response to Billow's request 
that he should help him to exploit the supposed success in the Battle 
of Guise and finish off the French Fifth Army, The messages are of 

Kluck says : " At 5.55 p.m. on 30th a wireless message (which was 
' also read at O.H.L.) was received from Second Army Headquarters : 
' ' Enemy decisively beaten to-day ; strong forces retiring on La 
' ' Fere. The British, who were barring the Oise south-west of La 
' ' Fere, are also retreating, some in a southerly, some in a south- 
' ' easterly direction.' This was followed by a second message at 
' 6.30 P.M. ' To gain the full advantages of the victory a wheel 
' ' inwards of the First Army, pivoted on Chauny, towards the line 
' ' La Fere — Laon is highly desirable.' " 

Billow does not give these messages, but says that on the 29th 
' The First Army was asked by wireless to support the Second Army 
' on the 30th, and at 7.5 p.m. on the 30th the following information 
' was received from the First Army : ' Right wing of First Army 
' ' has thrown the enemy over the Avre. Will advance to-morrow 
' ' against the Oise section Comi^iegne — Chauny.' " Kluck likewise 
does not give this message, but admits that " during the evening of 
' the 30th August O.H.L. was informed that the First Army had 
' wheeled round towards the Oise and would advance on the 31st 
' by Compiegne and Noyon to exploit the success of the Second 
' Army.''' ^ 

The German Supreme Command concurred in the proposed moves, 
and at 9.10 despatched to the First and Second Armies the following 
message : " Third Army is wheeling south towards the Aisne, 
" attacking against Rethel — Semuy, and will pursue in a southerly 
" direction. The movements begun by the First and Second Armies 
" are in accordance with the intention of O.H.L." The lower 
Seine ceased therefore to be the objective of the First Army.^ All 
appeared to be going well, except that the Sixth and Seventh Armies 
were not making much progress towards the Moselle, as instructed 
in the " General Directions " issued by O.H.L. on the 28th. Crown 
Prince Rupprecht reported " that there were still opposite him 
" strong French forces, of whom reports came in at one moment 
" that they were retiring, at another that they were attacking." ' 
A deadlock on the eastern frontier, provided the Sixth and Seventh 

^ German critics consider that instead of taking his whole Army to 
exploit Billow's supposed success, Kluck should have at least sent one 
corps and some cavalry to follow up and keep touch with the British, if 
not with the French whom he had " thrown over the Avre." 

2 G.O.A., iii. p. 187. 

3 G.O.A., iii. p. 188. 








MARCH, 18 Aug.-5 Sept 

ed Areas 

m ARMIES. 5 S>-pt. 

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 90 90 100 MILES 

Ordnance Survey, 1920. 


Armies held an equal number of French there, did not, however, 29-31 Aug 
endanger, indeed it might actually favour, the accomplishment of the 1914. 
main aim of the Schlieffen Plan without the First Army having to 
pass west and south of the capital. But the Supreme Command 
continued to believe that the time for the final stage of the Schlieffen 
Plan, a complete " Cannae " in the open field, had arrived, and on 
the 30th August their representative. Major Bauer, informed Crown 
Prince Rupprecht of the rapid progress of the right wing, but that 
" serious resistance might still be anticipated between Paris and 
" the eastern fortresses : of the Sixth Army it was therefore expected 
" that it would fall on the enemy's flank in the gap between Epinal 
" and Toul, and so bring about a decision." ^ 

Fortunately Kluck had wasted time by his thrust in the air west- 
wards after Le Cateau, and his assistance to Biilow came too late. 
The leading corps of the German First Army, the IX. and ///., 
managed to cross the Oise between Chauny and Bailly on the 31st 
and reached the line Vezaponin — Vic — Attichy, 12 miles beyond, 
with the //. Cavalry Corps on their right front ; the IV. and II. 
swung round behind them to the line Mareuil — Tricot — Maignelay, 
west and abreast of Noyon, with the IV. Reserve still further in 
rear, in and south of Amiens. Thus, on that day, German corps 
were moving south-eastwards north of the Aisne, whilst the B.E.F. 
was marching more or less south-westwards on the other side of 
that river. Kluck, therefore, thinking by " extraordinary forced 
" marches " to outflank the Allies,^ was actually advancing into the 
net that Joffre had in preparation for him.* 

The German Second Army rested on the 31st after its battle at 
Guise on the previous two days, as already related.* 

^ Bavarian O.A., ii. p. 584. G.O.A., iii. p. 285. 
2 Kuhl's " Marne," p. 104. 

* The following description of General Kluck at Lassigny (12 miles 
north of Compiegne) on the 30th August 1914, by M. Albert Fab re, 
Conseiller a la Cour d' appal de Paris (given in M. Hanotaux's " Histoire 
illustree de la Guerre de 1914," viii. p. 158), seems worthy of quotation. 
The general had dejeuner at M. Fabre's villa and gave him a " safeguard " 
for the house signed by his own hand. 

" Bientot, un mouvement se produisit parmi les officiers qui se rangferent 
" devant la porte de la propriete. Une automobile s'arreta. Un officier 
" d'allure impressionnante et arrogante en descendit. II s'avan§a seul 
" jusqu'au milieu du terre-plein de la villa. II etait grand, majestueux, il 
" avait le visage rase et ravage, les traits durs, le regard effrayant. II tenait, 
" a la main droite, un fusil de soldat ; sa main gauche etait appuyee sur la 
" crosse d'un revolver d'ordonnance. II fit plusieurs tours sur lui-meme 
" en frappant le sol de la crosse de son fusil et s'arreta dans une pose 
" theatrale. Personne ne semblait oser I'approcher. Le personnage avait 
" I'air veritablement terrible. J'eus la vision d'Attila. C'etait le trop 
" fameux von Kluck." 

* Hauptmann Brinekmann of the Second Army staff came over and 
reported to the First Army that the Second Army " was exhausted by the 
" Battle of Guise and unable to pursue " (Kuhl's " Marne," p. 109). Biilow 
says : " On the 31st the troops of the Second Army were placed in positions 
" of readiness for the attack on La Fere " (p. 44). 



The Battle of Guise ^ 
(Called by the Germans, St. Quentin) 

29th-30th August 1914 

As early as the 24th August, after the French defeats in the 
Battles of the Frontier, General Joffre had proposed to make a 
counter-attack " in the centre " with the Fifth Army ,2 which, owing 
to the skilful leading of General Lanrezac, was still intact and un- 
shaken. On the night of the 25th/26th, he postponed any action 
until he " had constituted on the left by the junction of the Fourth, 
" Fifth and British Armies, and forces drawn from the east, a mass 
" capable of resuming the offensive." * It was the intention of 
General Lanrezac himself to order a counter-attack directly he was 
clear of the enclosed and broken country of the Avesnes region, in 
which " his intact artillery could not effectively support his infantry." 
[ap 14. During the 27th his four corps, in line, crossed the Oise and its 
tributary, the Thon, his right being 25 miles east of Guise, and 
Valabregue's group of two Reserve divisions, on his left, covering 
the passages near Guise. General Joffre, by telephone message, 
now urged the Fifth Army to take action, as the ground was suitable, 
adding, " you need not pay attention to what the British do on your 
" left." 
[ap 15. For the 28th, therefore. General Lanrezac ordered his corps " to 
" close on the left, so as to face north-west and be in position to 
" attack any enemy columns which cross the Oise." No sooner had 
these instructions been issued than he received from G.Q.G. (timed 
10.10 P.M., date of receipt not stated), the following order : 

" From information received, it appears that parts of the 
" German VII. and IX. Corps, forming part of the Second Army, 
" opposed to you, have been left before Maubeuge. [Actually these 
" corps had just been relieved by the VII. Reserve Corps.^ It is 
" therefore possible to come to the help of the British Army by acting 
" against the enemy forces [X. Reserve, VII. and half IX. Corps] 
" which are advancing against it west of the Oise. You will in 
" consequence send your left to-morrow between the Oise and St. 
" Quentin to attack any enemy force marching against the British 
" Army." 

At 9 A.M. on the 28th General Joffre himself visited General 
Lanrezac's advanced headquarters at Marie (13 miles south-east of 
Guise), and gave him the following written order : 

" The Fifth Army will attack as soon as possible the enemy 
" forces which advanced yesterday against the British Army. It 
" will cover its right with the minimum of forces, sending recon- 
" naissances to a great distance on that flank," 

^ See the French and German Official Accounts, the two official mono- 
graphs, " Schlacht bei St. Quentin," I. and II., General Lanrezac's " Le 
Plan de Campagne fran9aise," and General Rouquerol's " Bataille de 

2 " Joffre et la Marne," p. 64, by Commandant Muller (General Joffre's 
officier d'ordonnance). 

3 F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 21 et seq. 


The Fifth Army, therefore, made some modifications in the des- 29-30 Aug. 
tinations allotted to its corps. 1914. 

Near Guise the Oise, running in a large valley cut into the general Sketch 8. 
plain of northern France, makes a nearly right-angled bend : by 
Lanrezac's orders, under cover of the X. Corps facing northwards 
behind the east and west course of the Oise, the III. and XVIII. 
Corps were to continue the march westwards on the 29th, and, 
with Valabregue's Reserve divisions, cross the lower, north and 
south, reach of the river towards St. Quentin to fall on the flank of 
the German forces moving west of the river. The I. Corps and 4th 
Cavalry Division were to follow in reserve, the former well to the 

On the evening of the 28th the advanced guards of the left wing 
of the German Second Army (the Guard and X. Corps) gained pos- 
session of the bridges of the upper reach of the Oise, General von 
Billow being under the impression that he had in front of him there 
only weak French and British rear guards. His right wing {X. 
Reserve and VII. Corps) was nearly twenty miles ahead of his left, 
south of St. Quentin, and aligned facing south-west, abreast of 
Kluck's Army. Thus there were two distinct battles on the 29th 
August, fought on different sides of the Oise. 

In the thick mist of the early morning of that day the columns 
of the French X. Corps, moving westwards as covering force, came 
into collision with the heads of the two German corps pushing south- 
wards uphill from the river to the plateau above, combats taking 
place in the various villages where the roads, on which both sides 
were marching, crossed. Thus what had occurred in the original 
advance of the French Third and Fourth Armies ten days earlier 
was now reversed, the German columns blundering head-on into the 
broadside of French columns crossing their front. 

The X. Corps, supported as the day went on by the artillery and 
part of the 5th Division of the III. Corps, and later by the I. Corps, 
though at first in some difficulty, eventually held its own, and at 
night the French made a slight general advance, which sent the 
German Guard and X. Corps back towards the Oise, and some 
portions of them over it : the commander of the Guard Corps being 
authorized, " after long and earnest discussion, to withdraw behind 
" the Oise." Actually, only Hutier's 1st Guard Division on the 
eastern flank appears to have recrossed. 

On the western wing, on the other battlefield, the advance of 
the heads of the French III. and XVIII. Corps and Valabregue's 
Group equally came as a complete surprise to Billow's scattered 
right wing, their camp fires of the previous night having been mis- 
taken by the Germans for those of their own left wing. The G.O.C. 
X. Reserve Corps and five of his staff actually motored up to a village 
occupied by the French, and were all wounded. Had the British 
I. Corps been permitted by Sir John French to take part in the 
battle, if only by fire on the German front whilst the French con- 
tinued their flank attack, an important defeat might have been 
administered to the Second Army. In view, however, of the German 
advance against the French right wing, and the inaction of the British, 
the movement of the left wing could not be persisted in. At 11 a.m. 
the G.O.C. III. Corps reported that, his 5th Division having faced 
north to assist the X. Corps in warding off the flank attack, he had 
suspended the passage of any more of the 6th Division across the 


lower reach of the Oise ; and the G.O.C. XVIII. Corps thereupon 
halted his division, which, after holding on all day, recrossed the 

Jap 16. river at night, the Reserve di\dsions having retired a little earlier. 

For the 30th, General Lanrezac ordered his left wing to hold the 
line of the Oise, whilst the III., I. and X. Corps drove into the river 
what Germans remained south of the upper reach. In view, however, 
of the dangerous position of his Army, with both its flanks exposed 
and no hope of assistance on either side. General Lanrezac tele- 
phoned to G.Q.G. for further instructions, pointing out that if he 
delayed withdrawal his troops ran the risk of being surrounded. 
In the absence of General Joffre, General Belin, his Chief of the 
Staff, would give no orders ; but at 10 p.m. a ciphered telegram was 
despatched to General Lanrezac : — 

" The effect of the attack of the Fifth Army having made itself 
" felt and disengaged in part the Sixth Army' [in action that day 
" with Kluck], the Fifth Army will take measures to break off the 
" battle and retire behind the Serre. The breaking-off should take 
" place before daylight." Unfortunately, according to the French 
Official Account, this telegram went astray, and the first General 
Lanrezac heard of its contents was at 7 a.m. on the 30th, when it 
was sent to him over the telephone. 

Fortunately the Germans had received too severe a blow for this 
curious delay to be of any consequence. Biilow ordered the A'. 
and Guard Corps to renew the attack on the 30th, but General von 
Emmich, commanding the former, refused to advance, fearing that 
the French were about to fall upon him : it was not until about 2 p.m. 
that his 19th Division moved, and 4.30 p.m. before the 20th Division 
did so. It is not clear from German accounts what the Guard Corps 
did ; but it did not renew the attack, and seems to have taken up a 
flank position alarmed by the appearance of the French 51st Reserve 
Division, which had come up from the east to Voulpaix on the right 
of the Fifth Army. 

Map 17. The corps of the Fifth Army therefore retired practically un- 
noticed and unhindered. About 1.50 p.m. a German aeroplane dis- 
covered that French columns were streaming away. At 3.45 Biilow 
informed his Army of its victory, and ordered that the enemy 
should be pursued by " artillery fire and infantry detachments," 
but that on the 31st the Army would " halt and rest." In comment- 
ing on the order for a rest day instead of a general pursuit, the 
German official monograph defends Billow's consideration for his 
troops, recalling that after the Battle of St. Quentin in January 
1871 General von Goeben had not ordered a pursuit. The weather 
conditions and length of daylight were, however, somewhat dis- 
similar on the two occasions. 





THE RETREAT {continued) 


(Sketches A, 9, 10 & 11 ; Maps 4, 19 & 20) 

The Fight at Nery 

G.H.Q. operation orders ^ sent out at 8.50 p.m. on the sketches 
31st August from Dammartin en Goele gave the information 9 & ii. 
that the enemy appeared to have completed his westerly ^^^P^^ ■* 
movement and to be wheeling to the south, and that large 
columns were advancing in a general south or south- 
easterly direction on Noyon — Compiegne, covered by at 
least two cavalry divisions which had reached the Oise 
that afternoon. The following movements towards the 
south-west, marches of some ten to fourteen miles, if all 
divisions reached their destinations on the 31st, were 
ordered to be carried out next day : 

The I. Corps to move to the area La Ferte Milon — Betz. 

The II. Corps to Betz — Nanteuil. 

The III. Corps to Nanteuil — Baron. 

The Cavalry Division to Baron — Mont I'fiveque. 

Special instructions were given that the rear guard of 
the III. Corps was to reach a line drawn east and west 
through Nery by 6 a.m. ; but, owing to the lateness of the 
hour at which many units arrived at their billets, General 
Pulteney was obliged to represent that this was impossible. 
In obedience to the spirit of the order, however, he reported 
that the transport of his corps would move off at 1 a.m. 

The night passed quietly, with rather less than the 
usual disturbances and alarms, except those occasioned by 
the French in and near Verberie disappearing about mid- 

^ Appendix 21. 


night without a word of explanation. There was no indi- 
cation that there would be contact with the enemy in the 
early morning. Several small actions, however, took place 
on the 1st September. They might be dismissed in a few 
w^ords, were it not that they show that the British were more 
than able to hold their own when fortune brought them to 
grips with the enemy ; whilst the practical destruction, 
with loss of its guns, of the German 4th Cavalry Division 
had important results on the conditions under which the 
Battle of the Marne opened a week later. 

Dawn broke with dense mist, presaging another day 
of excessive heat. The 1st Cavalry Brigade and L Battery 
at Nery, bivouacking between the widely separated 5th and 
4th Divisions, had been ordered to be ready to resume their 
march at 4.30 a.m., but, since it was impossible to see any- 
thing two hundred yards away, this was countermanded. 
The men were busy preparing their breakfasts and watering 
their horses when, at 5.30 a.m., the mist being as thick as 
ever, a patrol of the 11th Hussars returned with the report 
that it had ridden into a body of German cavalry in the 
fog, and had been hunted back to Nery. Immediately 
afterwards high-explosive shells burst over the village, and 
there was a roar of guns, machine guns and rifle fire from 
the ground, little more than six hundred yards distant, 
which overlooks the eastern side of the village. The 
horses of the Bays took fright and galloped down the road 
to the north. The battery was in mass, with the horses 
hooked in and poles down ; men and horses began to fall at 
once under German fire, and the battery commander was 
knocked over and temporarily disabled whilst hurrying 
back from brigade headquarters. In his absence. Captain 
E. K. Bradbury, with the help of the other officers and of 
such men as were not busy with the horses, unlimbered 
three guns and man-handled them round to reply to the 
German batteries which were taking them in flank. One 
gun was almost instantly put out of action by a direct 
hit. The other two opened fire, but had hardly done so 
before the gun under Lieut. J. Giffard was silenced, he and 
every man of his detachment being killed or wounded. 

The remaining two subalterns now joined Captain 
Bradbury at the third gun, and immediately afterwards 
Lieut. J. D. Campbell was killed, but the one gun remained 
in action against the German twelve with good effect. In 
vain the enemy concentrated his fire on it ; he could not 
silence it. Meantime, the three cavalry regiments had 

N^RY 257 

manned the eastern face of the village, secured the northern i Sept. 
and southern exits and opened fire, particularly with their 1914.. 
machine guns. The German cavalrymen pushed their 
way dismounted to within five hundred yards of the vil- 
lage, but no nearer. Towards 6 a.m. Br.-General Briggs, 
after strengthening his own right, ordered two squadrons 
of the 5th Dragoon Guards, his last remaining reserve, 
to attack the enemy's right flank. They accordingly 
galloped northwards and then wheeling to the east, dis- 
mounted and pushed in to close range. Whilst the 1st 
Cavalry Brigade was thus holding the German 4th Cavalry 
Division, there came a response to Br.-General Briggs's 
call for assistance. Just as the mist began to thin in the 
morning sun, the 4th Cavalry Brigade and I Battery 
arrived on the scene from St. Vaast on the north-west, 
followed by a composite battalion of the Warwickshire 
and Dublin Fusiliers of the 10th Brigade from Verberie in 
the same direction, and the 1 /Middlesex from Saintines 
in the north. Four guns of I Battery unlimbered two 
thousand yards south-west of the German position. As 
they did so, the fire of L Battery ceased ; and for good 
reason. For some time its fire had been desultory ; 
Lieut. L. F. H. Mundy had been several times wounded, 
and man after man was struck down until there only re- 
mained Captain Bradbury, who was still untouched, and 
Sergt. D. Nelson, who had been wounded. Battery- 
Sergeant-Major G. T. Dorrell then joined them, and at 
that instant Captain Bradbury, whilst fetching ammunition 
from a wagon twenty yards off, fell mortally wounded. 
The survivors continued to fire until the last round was ex- 
pended, and then — but not till then — L Battery was silent. 

I Battery opened fire about 8 a.m. and speedily silenced 
the German artillery, and the enemy began to draw off. 
He made an attempt to save his guns, but the teams were 
caught by I Battery, and the men trying to man-handle 
the guns back were shot down by machine-gun fire ; 
nevertheless, four out of the twelve were carried off, only, 
as will be seen, to fall into British hands next day. The 
1 /Middlesex under Major F. G. M. Rowley followed by a 
squadron of the 11th Hussars charged into the batteries, 
to find that there was not a live German left near them. 
The Hussars thereupon pressed on in pursuit for a mile 
until they were recalled, capturing seventy-eight prisoners 
belonging to every regiment of the 4th Cavalry Division. By 
8.45 A.M. the action was over. 

VOL. I s 


On the western flank of the force, on the heights near 
St. Sauveur (3^ miles E.N.E. of Verberie), the 1/East 
Lancashire and 1 /Hampshire of the 11th Brigade had also 
been sharply engaged since dawn with German cavalry 
{2nd Cavalry Division).^ When the fighting at Nery was 
over, there was no object in leaving the battalions in an 
exposed position and they were withdrawn across the 
ravine of the Autonne through the 1/Somerset L.I. and the 
1 /Rifle Brigade, the other battalions of the brigade, which 
were occupying a position on the high ground at Saintines 
(2 miles east of Verberie). 

There can be no doubt that the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
was taken by surprise ; but it is not less certain that the 
German 4th Cavalry Division was equally unaware of the 
near presence of a British force. Indeed, in an intercepted 
German wireless message, it was reported that the division 
had been surprised in its bivouac at Nery and surrounded 
by considerable hostile forces.^ Captain Bradbury died 
very shortly after he was hit, and never received the 
Victoria Cross which was awarded to him, to his gallant 
companion. Sergeant Nelson, and to Battery-Sergeant- 
Major Dorrell. The casualties of the 1st Cavalry Brigade 
did not exceed one hundred and thirty-five officers and 
men killed and wounded ; of these, five officers and forty- 
nine men belonged to L Battery. Among the killed was 
Lieut. -Colonel G. K. Ansell of the 5th Dragoon Guards, 
who had already distinguished himself at Elouges. The 
German casualties are unknown. They can hardly have 
been fewer, and were probably more numerous, than the 

This was the first encounter with the enemy on the 1st 

^ Poseck, p. 77. See also page 248, f.n. 2. 

* For German movements see Note I. at end of Chapter. 

^ A German account of Nery by an officer of the 18th Dragoon Regiment 
(of the 4ih Cavalry Division) has appeared in " Mecklenburgs Sohne im 
Weltkriege," Heft 13. He states that the three divisions of Marvvitz's 
cavalry corps were sent forward at 4 a.m. on the 31st to reconnoitre 
towards Paris, and that his division marched without any halt worth 
mentioning ; this agrees with the statements of prisoners, who said that 
they had made a forced march of 20 hours to get to Nery. At dawn the 
advanced guard reported a British bivouac at Nery, and General von 
Garnier at first ordered the division to deploy and charge, but, the ground 
being found unsuitable, this was changed to an attack on foot, wliieh 
progressed to within 500 yards of the village. British reinforcements then 
came up and " we held our ground against greatly superior numbers until 
" 2 P.M. (sic). We then had to withdraw or be destroyed. The brigades 
" were therefore directed to get through independently as best they could." 
Nothing is said about the guns. The Dragoon brigade apparently fled 


The Rear-guard Action of Crepy en Valois 

Further east, about Mermont and the ground north i Sept. 
of Crepy en Valois, the outpost line of the 5th Division, ^^i'*- 
held by the 13th Brigade, was attacked at 6 a.m. by Sketch ii. 
mounted troops of the IV. Corps and by Jager.^ The ^^ps 4 
pressure did not become serious until 10 a.m., when the 
5th Division, which had delayed its march in consequence 
of the fighting at Nery, began to retire ; it then chiefly 
affected the West Kent on the left of the line, where the 
Germans delivered an infantry attack from Bethancourt 
(4 miles due north of Crepy). The West Kent were sup- 
ported by a section of the 119th Battery, which came into 
action within one hundred yards of the firing line, opened 
at fourteen hundred yards' range and, firing one hundred 
and fifty rounds in five minutes, brought the Germans 
to a standstill. By noon the outposts having become 
rear guard had fallen back to the south of Crepy ; the 
Germans did not follow except with cavalry patrols, and 
all trouble ceased on this part of the line. On the right 
flank, the 2/Duke of Wellington's holding the cross roads 

back into the forest of Compifegne. After dark it marched to the south- 
west (through Baron, according to inhabitants) and hid in the woods 15 
miles south-west of Nery for 30 hours. On the 3rd September it escaped 
via Ermenonville back to Nanteuil. The traces found by the B.E.F. are 
noticed in the next chapter. 

According to Poseck, pp. 78, 79, the 4th Cavalry Division at first 
withdrew eastward, but, hearing the sound of firing at St. Sauveur in 
the north and at Crepy en Valois to the east (in actions described later 
in the text), decided that the path to safety lay to the south, and the 
brigades moved independently in that direction with the hope of concealing 
themselves in the forest and of doubling back north when the Allies had 
passed. This they actually accomplished, though at the cost of their re- 
maining guns and of a considerable amount of transport and equipment. 
The brigades hid, without food or ammunition, in the great woods on either 
side of Roziferes (just north-east of Baron) and saw the British columns 
march down the main road through Baron. " On account of want of 
" ammunition, an attack of the isolated brigades on the mmierically 
" superior infantry columns was not possible." They remained in hiding 
until the afternoon of the 2nd September. 

Kluck merely states that after a successful surprise the 4th Cavalry 
Division became seriously engaged with superior forces, and incurred heavy 
losses. Kuhl (" Marne," p. 121) says that it suffered so heavily that on 
the 3rd September it was not reassembled and was not able to advance on 
the 4th with the rest of the corps. Altogether, the 1st Se[)tember was 
decidedly to the disadvantage of the German cavalry, for, as will be seen, 
the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions were unable to advance, far less pursue 
as ordered (see page 266). 

^ According to Kluck, the IV. Corps was in action north of Cr6py en 
Valois later in the afternoon, and the first contact was with the five Jdger 
battalions of Marwitz's cavalry corps (Poseck, p. 77). 


at " Raperie " (1 mile N.N.E, of Crepy) were supported by 
the two remaining batteries of the XXVII. Brigade R.F.A. ; 
and under cover of these guns Br. -General Cuthbert was 
able to withdraw his battalions with little difficulty. 

The Rear-guard Actions of Villers Cotterets 

Still further to the east, the I. Corps marched at 4 a.m. 
by two roads through the forest of Villers Cotterets, a large 
area closely planted with trees, in which there was no view 
or field of fire except on the roads and rides which cross it. 
The 1st Division from Missy took the Soissons road, which 
skirts the eastern side of Villers Cotterets, and turns thence 
south-eastward on La Ferte Milon. 

The 2nd Division, on the west of the 1st, moved by the 
road which passes through Vivieres ^ and Rond de la Reine 
and the western side of Villers Cotterets, south-west upon 
Pisseleux and Boursonne. 

The 5th Cavalry Brigade covered the right rear from 
the region of Montgobcrt, and the 3rd Cavalry Brigade the 
left rear from Mortefontaine and Taillefontaine, both out- 
side the forest. 

Here again it was the western flank that was first 
engaged, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade being attacked on reach- 
ing Taillefontaine (5 miles N.N.W. of Villers Cotterets) by 
a force of all arms advancing from the north. ^ As the 
brigade drew back to the north-western corner of the Forest 
of Villers Cotterets, the 4th Hussars were continuously 
engaged until past noon, and lost their commanding officer, 
Lieut. -Colonel I. G. Hogg, in the sharp fighting in the wood- 

A little to the east of Taillefontaine the 4th (Guards) 
Brigade was covering the retirement of the 2nd Division, 
with the Irish Guards and 2/Coldstream, under Lieut. - 
Colonel Hon. George Morris of the former regiment, in 
position between Vivieres and Puisieux, and the 2/Grenadiers 
and 3/Coldstream in second line at Rond de la Reine. 
About 10 a.m. Colonel Morris's troops were attacked by a 
force of all arms moving from north-west to south-east. 
The 9th Battery replied effectively to the German guns, 
and the firing so far died away that Colonel Morris sent back 
the 2/Coldstream with orders to retire to the railway north 
of Villers Cotterets, and prepared to follow them with the 

^ Spelt Vivders on some majjs. 
2 The advanced guard of the 6th Division. 


Irish Guards. Just then, however, he received a verbal i Sept. 
order from the brigadier not to fall back too quickly, since ^^^'** 
it was intended to give the main body of the division a long 
halt, from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m. The 2/Coldstream, owing to the 
density of the forest, were already gone past recall, but the 
Irish Guards stood fast, and, about 10.45 a.m., were again 
and more seriously attacked. A company of the Grenadiers 
was sent forward to reinforce them, but before the Irish 
Guards could be extricated, the Germans opened a direct 
attack upon the western flank and front of the second line. 
This line was drawn up along a grass ride which followed 
the highest ridge in the forest, and passes from west to east 
through the open space called Rond de la Reine to another 
open space, about a mile distant, named Croix de Belle Vue. 
The 3/Coldstream were on the west of Rond de la Reine, 
being widely extended so as to block the numerous rides 
that run from north to south towards Haramont, and 
therefore had wide intervals between companies. The 
2/Grenadiers were on the right. The Germans soon de- 
tected the gaps between the companies of the Coldstream 
and penetrated between them ; but the battalion, though 
compelled to fall back, did so very slowly, each isolated 
party fighting vigorously as best it could. The Grenadiers 
were in like case, and behaved in like manner, and both 
battalions were still close to their original positions when 
company by company the Irish Guards at last joined 
them. Colonel Morris was killed early in this the first serious 
engagement of his regiment ; Br.-General R. Scott-Kerr 
was severely wounded while leaving Rond de la Reine, 
the Germans having brought up a machine gun which 
raked the broad main ride. Thus there was for a time no 
one in general command ; but the three British battalions 
were so much intermixed and the fighting in the woods 
was unavoidably so confused, that little or no control 
was possible. However, Grenadiers, Coldstream and Irish 
fought their way back, contesting every inch of ground, to 
Villers Cotterets, the 3/Coldstream retiring on their second 
battalion, which was now on the railway line just to the 
north of the town, and the remainder further to the east. 
The 17th Battery was in position north of Villers Cotterets 
to support them, but did not fire, the Guards having beaten 
off their assailants for the present. It was by then about 

2 P.M. 

Meanwhile the 6th Brigade had been halted about a mile 
south of Pisseleux, immediately south of Villers Cotterets, 


to cover the retreat of the Guards, two companies of the 
Royal Berkshire being deployed upon either flank of the 
9th Battery. The 5th Brigade had been ordered by 2nd 
Division headquarters to entrench in echelon a little further 
to the south-west, to serve as a rallying point for both 
brigades. Through the 5th Brigade the Guards retired, 
with the 2/Coldstream as rear guard ; the 17th Battery 
moved with them and unlimbered on the right of the 9th. 
Towards 4 p.m. the Germans, having apparently moved 
south-west from Villers Cotterets, opened heavy rifle fire 
from the west of the railway, while their artillery engaged 
the British batteries. These last, after a sharp duel, were 
ordered to retire ; but the teams of the 17th Battery could 
not come up until the 1 /King's had pushed forward to the 
western side of the railway and effectually checked the 
advance of the German infantry and artillery. Fighting 
lasted until 6 p.m., when the King's withdrew, under cover 
of the 2/Coldstream, and the action came to an end. The 
number of the enemy engaged was very superior to the 
British. The fight cost the 4th (Guards) Brigade over three 
hundred officers and men, and the 6th Brigade one hundred 
and sixty. Two platoons of the Grenadiers were surrounded 
and killed at Rond de la Reine, fighting to the last man. 
Some weeks later it was ascertained from prisoners that 
the Germans had suffered very heavily in this affair, 
having lost all sense of direction and fired on each 

Sketches During these clashes of the rear guards, the main body 
M * i^* °^ ^^^ British Army tramped on through intense heat until 
^^ " ' far into the evening. The 1st Division reached its halting 
place about La Ferte Milon, 16 miles from its starting point, 
between 7 and 9 p.m. The 2nd Division and the 3rd and 
5th Cavalry Brigades arrived at Betz (8 miles west of La 
Ferte Milon), and the villages to the east of it, after a nine- 
teen-mile march, from one to two hours later. Of the II. 
Corps, the 3rd Division marched quite untroubled to the 
villages south-west of Betz, while the 5th Division, with 
greater precautions, but equally unhindered after the first 
bickering of the morning, came into Nanteuil (7 miles west 
of Betz) between 7.30 and 9 p.m. 
Map 4. On the extreme west, after the fight at Nery, the 11th 
Brigade as we have seen began to withdraw from St. Sau- 
veur, the 12th Brigade at 9.30 a.m. being already in position 
6 miles south of St. Sauveur between Mont Cornon and 


Chamicy. At 10 a.m. the Germans ^ attacked the 1 /Somerset i Sept. 
L.I. and 1 /Rifle Brigade, which were covering the retire- ^^i^* 
ment of the 11th Brigade, but were beaten off with con- 
siderable loss, and this ended the British fighting in this 
quarter for the day. At 11 a.m. the 2nd and 4th Cavalry 
Brigades were sent to take up a line from Mont Cornon 
north-westwards to Villeneuve, and shortly after noon the 
4th Division, passing through them, continued its march 
southward to Fresnoy, Rozieres and Baron, to the west of 
the 5th Division. The Cavalry Division took up its billets Map 20. 
to the west of the 4th Division along the northern edge of 
the Forest of Ermenonville from Fontaine to Mont I'lSveque. 
The march, though absolutely unhindered by the enemy, 
was an anxious one, for there were persistent rumours that 
German cavalry was in the Forest of Ermenonville ^ to the 
south of the British Cavalry Division. When the 1 /Rifle 
Brigade entered Rozieres at 7 p.m., they found that three 
hundred Uhlans had just quitted the village in great haste, 
leaving a machine gun and sundry articles of equipment 
behind them.^ 

During the 31st August, as already mentioned, several 
telegrams had passed between the Secretary of State for 
War and the British Commander-in-Chief. It appeared 
to the Cabinet that Sir John French had determined to 
retire so far out of the Allied line that he would frustrate 
their policy of co-operating closely with the French and 
rendering them continuous support. The French President 
and General Joffre also seemed to be under this impression.'* 

^ The advanced guard of the //. Corps. Kluck says that " the //. Corps, 
" supported by the Cavalry Corps, became involved in heavy fighting for 
" the possession of the important Oise crossings at Verberie and St. 
" Sauveur." The Provisional Division of Sordet's cavalry corps and some 
battalions of Chasseurs Alpins, the right of General Maunoury's Army 
which was also falling back, were engaged near Verberie. 

^ Fugitives of the 4th Cavalry Division were hiding there, as we have 

' These troops are now known to have been survivors of Nery. Kluck 
says that the 4th Cavalry Division " incurred heavy losses at Rozieres." 

* According to M. Poincare's preface to the French edition of Sir 
George Arthur's " Life of Lord Kitchener," p. ix : — 

" Field-jMarshal French operated with excessive independence, and 
" strove, above all, to maintain his divisions intact. 

" On Sunday, 30th August, General Joffre, uneasy at seeing French 
" hold himself thus aloof, telephoned to M. Millerand, the Minister of 
" War, that he feared the British were not for the moment disposed to 
" fight. . . . Next day, Monday, the Commander-in-Chief of our Armies 
" sent me a liaison officer to beg me to intervene and ensure that Field - 
" Marshal French should not carry out his retreat too rapidly, and should 
" make up his mind to contain tlie enemy who was on the British front." 

The President then imparted his fears and the request of General Joffre 


As it was difficult to judge of the situation in London, it 
was decided that Lord Kitchener should himself proceed 
to France and discuss it verbally with the Commander-in- 
Chief, so as to ensure that there would be no break-down 
in the relations between the chiefs of the French and British 
Armies. Leaving the choice of the meeting place to Sir 
John French — who fixed the British Embassy at Paris — 
Lord Kitchener left London at 2 a.m. on the 1st September, 
crossed the Channel to Havre in a destroyer, arrived in 
Paris about 3 p.m., met Sir John shortly after, and spent 
nearly three hours with him. 

The result of the interview was recorded in a telegram 
sent by Lord Kitchener to the Government at 7.30 p.m., 
before he started on his return journey. It is as follows : 

" French's troops are now engaged in the fighting line, where 
*' he will remain conforming to the movements of the French 
" army, though at the same time acting with caution to avoid 
" being in any way unsupported on his flanks." 

In forwarding a copy of this telegram to Sir John 
French, Lord Kitchener added : 


" I feel sure you will agree that the above represents the 
conclusions we came to ; but, in any case, until I can com- 
" municate with you further in answer to anything you may 
" wish to tell me, please consider it as an instruction. 

" By being ' in the fighting line ' you of course understand 
** I mean dispositions of your troops in contact with, though 
" possibly behind, the French as they were to-day ; of course 
" you will judge as regards their position in this respect." 

To this communication Sir John French replied on the 
3rd September : 

" I fully understand your instructions. ... I am in full 
" accord with Joffre and the French." 

The British Commander-in-Chief, on returning to his 
headquarters at Dammartin, 20 miles from Paris, at 6.45 
P.M., after the interview with Lord Kitchener, found that 
the day's work had not been unsatisfactory : the enemy 
had been shaken off after several sharp actions, and the 
march, though long and exhausting to the men, had finally 

to the British Ambassador, Sir Francis Bertie. About 10 p.m. Sir Francis 
came to the filysee with an officer bearing a written answer from the 
British Commander-in-Chief to Joffre's request — " An answer, unfortun- 
ately, not very conclusive." (This letter cannot be found in the British 
records. Sir John French in his " 1914," p. 95, merely says, " I refused.") 


reunited the British Army for the first time since the I. and i Sept. 
II. Corps had been separated on the 25th August. The i^i*- 
Cavalry Division was in touch with the French cavahy 
about Senhs, westwards of which, to a hne from Creil to 
the vicinity of Beauvais, General Maunoury had success- 
fully brought back the French Sixth Army. The left of the 
French Fifth Army was at Soissons ; as it had retired due 
south from Guise and the British Expeditionary Force had 
marched south-west a day ahead, the gap between the two 
was widening. Owing to the mist, aerial reconnaissance Sketch lo. 
had been difficult until the afternoon, but from 3 p.m. ^^^P ^^' 
onward the Flying Corps sent in a series of valuable observa- 
tions, all tending to confirm the previous reports of a general 
wheel of Kluck's army to the south-east. German troops 
were thick upon both banks of the Oise from Noyon south- 
ward to Verberie ; the greater number were already on the 
eastern side of the river, and the heads of heavy columns 
had reached Villers Cotterets and Crepy en Valois. These 
seemed to be wheeling to the south. It might be that this 
was due to the direction taken by the roads at these two 
points, but it was judged most important to withdraw the 
British Army out of reach of a night attack. 

Soon after midday the corps commanders had been 
warned by the Chief of the General Staff that the retire- 
ment would be continued on the morrow towards the Marne, 
and roads had been allotted ; but at 7 p.m., on realizing that 
the enemy was so near and in such force, and that some of 
his cavalry were actually behind the British front. Sir John 
French decided to continue the retreat earlier than he had 
intended and all the corps were ordered to get clear by a 
night march. ^ At the same time, G.H.Q., to which German 
cavalry escaping from Nery had passed quite close, com- 
menced moving back from Dammartin to Lagny.^ 


German Movements on 1st September 

General von Kluck, whose Army was now again in contact Sketch 10. 
with the British, states that he made another effort on the 1st Sep- Maps 4 
tember to catch them up. Their presence on his flank had com- & 20. 
pelled him to desist from his attempt to reach and roll up the left 
flank of the French Fifth Army, which had been noticed by and had 

^ Appendix 22. 

- Further details of the fight at Nery and the move of G.H.Q. will be 
found in the " Journal of the Royal Artillery," October 1927, pp. 307-08. 


so alarmed General Lanrezac. He therefore ordered his corps to 
turn south to settle with the British. His IX. Corps (less the 17th 
Division, which was still in rear, as it had stayed to co-operate with 
the right wing of the Second Army in the iiattle of Guise), III. 
Corps and IV. Corps having crossed the Aisne between Ambleny and 
Compiegne were to press southward ; the //. Corps was to reach the 
Oise at Verberie ; the //. Cavalry Corps, from near Compiegne, was to 
move eastwards to attack the French in flank via Villers Cotterets. 

As a result of the day's operations, the 18th Division of the IX. 
Corps reached Longpont (6 miles east of Villers Cotterets), without 
anywhere meeting with foes. 

The ///. Corps, marching on two roads via Vivieres and Taille- 
fontaine, came in contact with the rear guard of the British I. Corps 
near Villers Cotterets, as already related, and halted there for the 

The IV. Corps, also moving by two roads, Compiegne — Crepy 
and Choisy — Pierrefonds, after a terrific march of over thirty miles, 
and its fight with the 5th Division north of Crepy, halted on the line 
on which the action had been fought.^ 

The //. Corps, after its action at St. Sauveur with the 4th Divi- 
sion and later at Verberie with the French, halted at the latter place 
for the night. 

The IV. Reserve Corps, protecting the right flank, reached Quin- 
quempoix, about twenty-five miles south of Amiens. 

The general southward advance made by the German First Army 
on the 1st September, owing to the opposition with which it met, 
was under ten miles, ^ and Kluck had not struck to any purpose either 
the French Fifth Army or the B.E.F. 

The //. Cavalry Corps had " varving fortunes, and part of it 
" very costly fights." (G.O.A., iii. p. 'l99.) 

In consequence of an air report that the enemy had already 
reached Villers Cotterets, General von der INIarwitz decided not to 
continue the march of his corps eastwards, but to strike south 
(G.O.A., iii. p. 194). At 4 p.m. on the 31st, his corps then being on 
the eastern side of the Forest of Laigue (10 miles south of Noyon), 
he ordered " a relentless pursuit " that same night in the direction 
Nanteuil le Haudouin (Poseck, p. 76), that is nearly due south. Led 
horses, bridging train and telegraph vehicles were to be left behind. 
The 9th Cavalry Division, followed by the 2nd, marching on the main 
road Compiegne — Verberie, was, however, held up at the latter place 
and St. Sauveur east of it, and got no further on the 1st September. 
The 4th Cavalry Division moved east of the others and came to 
Nery, as we have seen. The five Jdgcr battalions of the corps were 
sent to Crepy en Valois and fought there. 

The German Oflicial Account admits the loss of only one battery 
by the 4ih Cavalry Division at Nery ; it adds that, after the fight 
" the division found itself in the middle of the area through which 
" the British Army was retiring, but had lost all connection with the 
" corps commander. As it was extremely exhausted, had suffered 
" heavy losses, and no command of it as a whole existed, it was not 
" in a position to do the foe serious harm." 

1 G.O.A., iii. p. 199, says that the " IV. Corps was nowhere in contact 
" with the enemy " on 1st September, but Kluck, p. 80, mentions the 

* See Kluck's map. 


The Second Army, after its rest day on the 31st, got on the move 1 Sept. 
southwards again, with the bombardment of the old fortresses of 1914. 
La Fere and Laon in view. The Army was entirely out of touch with 
the French and a march behind the Armies on its flanks. It proved 
that both fortresses had been evacuated, but some time was lost over 
reconnaissance, and about 1.30 p.m. General von Bulow heard by 
wireless from the Supreme Command that the " Third, Fourth and 
" Fifth Armies were seriously engaged against superior forces." He 
therefore wheeled the two corps of his left wing south-eastwards to 
bring assistance to the Third Army, only to hear at 5.45 p.m. that 
the French in front of it were retiring. An aeroplane reconnaissance 
towards evening confirmed that the retreat of the French was con- 
tinuing. The general southward advance of the Second Army was 
under ten miles. 


The Army of Paris ^ 

On the 25th August the Minister of War had given General 
Joffre an order that, should his forces be compelled to retreat, he 
should direct an Army of at least three corps on Paris to ensure 
its protection. On the 1st September the French Commander-in- 
Chief began to take measures to comply with this order and to re- 
inforce the garrison. Being unable to detail a corps of the Fifth Army, 
as he first proposed, owing to its being nearest the enemy, he directed 
the Third Army to supply one, and General Sarrail nominated the 
IV. Corps, which had been heavily engaged in the Ardennes, where 
its two divisions had suffered disastrous losses in the Battles of 
Ethe and Virton, respectively. To make up the balance, on the 
same day Joffre decided to incorporate the Sixth Army (then consist- 
ing of the 14th and the 63rd Reserve Divisions, called the VII. Corps, 
and Lamaze's Group of the 55th and 56th Reserve Divisions) in 
the Garrison of Paris. " He considered that the Reserve divisions 
" which it comprised would be very good behind entrenchments, 
" and might constitute the garrison of the works, whilst the Active 
" corps [actually containing only one Active division !] would furnish 
" the mobile defence and might be called upon to take part in 
" operations." General GaUieni, the Military Governor of Paris, 
was informed of this increase of his forces by telephone at 6.35 p.m., 
General Joffre having earlier in the day advised the Government to 
leave Paris, which they did on the 2nd September. 

1 F.O.A., i. (ii.) pp. 529-31. 



(Sketches A, 1, 9, 10, 11 & 12 ; Maps 2, 4, 21, 22, 23 & 24) 

Sketches The Army was growing hardened to continued retirements ; 
9 & 10. but in the I. Corps, to make the conditions easier for the 
&2T. ^ men, General Haig on the 1st September decided to send 
off by train from Villers Cotterets about half of the am- 
munition carried by his divisional ammunition columns, 
and to use the fifty wagons thus released to carry kits and 
exhausted soldiers. This was an extreme measure, taken 
only after mature deliberation, but it was more than 
justified by the result. 

The next day in pursuance of Sir John French's orders, 
the divisions began moving back between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. 
from their billets between La Ferte Milon and Senlis to the 
line of villages between Meaux and Dammartin, a march 
of some twelve miles. The I. Corps was on the right or 
east, the II. Corps in the centre and the III. Corps on the 
left, with the cavalry on either flank of the force. It was 
practically unmolested during this move. The 5th Cavalry 
Brigade, on the eastern flank, heard news of a German 
squadron moving from Villers Cotterets upon La Ferte 
Milon, but saw nothing. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade, on the 
west of the 5th, had been in motion for fully six hours and 
was well south of Betz before German shells began to burst 
over the extreme tail of the rear guard. An hour or so later 
six or eight German squadrons were seen approaching 
Bouillancy, the next village south of Betz, but were driven 
off by the fire of D and E Batteries. The brigade, being no 
further troubled, then retired slowly to Isles les Villenoy 
behind the right of the I. Corps, where it arrived late in 
the evening. 



The three brigades of the Cavalry Division on the left 2 Sept. 
had been disturbed on the night of the lst/2nd September ^^i"*- 
by more than one report that the whole or parts of the 
German 4th Cavalry Division were moving south through 
the Forest of Ermenonville behind the British left flank ; 
and at 2 a.m. the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, on the extreme left, 
had been ordered to march at once from Mont I'fiveque 
to clear the defile through the forest for the division. The 
brigade moved off at 2.30 a.m., taking the road through 
the forest towards Ermenonville. On debouching from the 
south-eastern edge it found the road littered with saddles, 
equipment and clothing. Some enemy force had evidently 
been in bivouac there and had hastily decamped. Reports 
came in from inhabitants that two squadrons of Uhlans 
were at Ermenonville and the next village east of it ; but 
the British were too late to intercept them. The enemy 
had withdrawn rapidly, and in the wooded country it was 
useless to pursue him. Before reaching Ermenonville the 
brigade came across some motor lorries of the 4th Division 
Ammunition Column, which had run into a party of German 
cavalry during the night, and also four abandoned German 
guns, the marks upon which proved that they were part of 
the batteries that had been in action at Nery.^ It may be 
stated here that, except for skirmishes of cavalry patrols, 
there was no further contact with the enemy during the 
rest of the retreat. 

Though the march of the British force this day was 
only a short one, averaging about twelve miles, and the 
leading units got in early, it was evening before all were 
in their billets. The heat of the day was intense and 
suffocating, and made marching so exhausting that several 
long halts were ordered. In spite of these, there were 
some cases of heat-stroke. 

The march of the I. Corps proved specially trying, 
since the valley of the Ourcq, for the first half of the way, 
formed an almost continuous defile. During the passage 
of this region, the divisions were directed to piquet the 
high ground as in mountain warfare. The movement pre- 
sented a fine opportunity to a really active and enter- 
prising enemy, but no such enemy appeared. 

An inhabitant of the district has put on record the 
appearance of the British during this period of the retreat : 

" The soldiers, phlegmatic and stolid, march without appear- 
" ing to hurry themselves ; their calm is in striking contrast 
^ The guns were destroyed by gun-cotton charges. 


" to the confusion of the refugees. They pass a night in the 
" villages of the Ourcq. It is a pacific invasion ... as sports- 
" men who have just returned from a successful raid, our brave 
" English eat with good appetite, drink solidly, and pay royally 
" those who present their bills ; . . . and depart at daybreak, 
" silently like ghosts, on the whistle of the officer in charge." ^ 

^ ^ g The position of the Army at nightfall on the 2nd 


Map 21. September was as follows 

I Corps '^ (^^ *^^ villages just north of Meaux. 

3rd Cavalry Brigade . Isles les Villenoy, S.S.W. of Meaux. 

II. Corps . . .In the area Monthyon — Montge — 


III. Corps . . . Eve — Dammartin. 

Cavalry Division . . In the area Thieux — Moussy le Vieux 

— Le Mesnil Amelot. 

Roughly speaking, therefore, its front extended from 
Meaux north-west to Dammartin. From Dammartin the 
French Provisional Cavalry Division ^ prolonged the line 
to Senlis, from which point north-westward through Creil 
to Mouy and beyond it lay General Maunoury's Sixth 
Army, which had been able to withdraw without serious 
interference by the enemy. On the right of the British 
the French Fifth Army was still a good march north 
of them, with the left of its infantry south-west of Fere 
en Tardenois, some twenty-five miles away; but General 
Joffre had issued orders for Conneau's newly formed 
cavalry corps (8th and 10th Cavalry Divisions and an 
infantry regiment), which was a few miles nearer, to get in 
touch with the British next day, and fill the gap between 
them and the Fifth Army. 
Map 4. The 2nd September had thus passed more or less un- 
eventfully for the troops, but aerial reconnaissance con- 
firmed interesting changes on the side of the enemy, which 
had been suspected on the previous day. His general 
march south-eastward seemed for the time to have come 
to an end, and to have given place to a southerly move- 
ment. The general front of Kluck's Army was covered by 
cavalry from Villers Cotterets through Crepy en Valois and 
Villeneuve to Clermont.^ Behind it from east to west 

^ " Les Champs de I'Ourcq, September 1914." By J. Roussel-L^pine. 

* Formed temporarily from the fittest units of Sordet's cavalry corps. 

* The II. Cavalry Corps was, according to Kluck, in line between the 

IV. and II. Corps, so part of the covering cavalry was divisional. 


opposite the British were the ///., IV. and //. Corps, and 2 Sept. 
there were indications that the heads of the columns were 1914. 
halting to allow the rear to close up, as if apprehensive of 
danger from the south. The IV. Reserve Corps was to the 
right rear north-west of Clermont about St. Just, and the 
IX. Corps was east of Villers Cotterets, on the same align- 
ment as the cavalry. Up to 4 p.m. no hostile troops of any 
kind had passed a line, about ten to twelve miles away, 
drawn from Marcuil (at the junction of the Clignon with 
the Ourcq) westward through Betz to Nanteuil le Haudouin. 
In fact, it seemed as though Kluck had not foreseen any 
such collision with the British as had taken place on the 1st. 
Possibly he believed them to have moved south-eastward, 
and such, indeed, had been their direction on the 30th, 
though on the 31st it had been changed to south-west to 
leave more space for the retreat of the French Fifth Army. 
Moreover, but for the exhaustion which prevented the right 
and centre of the British Army from reaching the halting- 
places ordered for the evening of the 31st, it is probable 
that there would have been no serious collision at all 
between the British and the Germans on the 1st September, 
but that the Germans would have merely brushed against 
the British rear guards, reported the main body to be still 
in retreat, and continued their south-easterly march to take 
the French Fifth Army in flank. Events, however, having sketch la 
fallen out as they did, Kluck had made one further attempt Map 21. 
to cut off the British. Meanwhile on his left Biilow was 
pressing forward against the French Fifth Army and had, 
with his main body, reached the line of the Aisne from 
Pontavert (14 miles north-west of Reims) to Soissons, the 
head of his advance being on the Vesle, On his front, the 
Fifth Army had fallen back to the line Reims — Fere en 

Whilst in Paris on the 1st September, Sir John French Map 4. 
made a proposal to the French Minister of War to organize 
a line of defence on the Marne and there stand the attack 
of the enemy. This was rejected on the 2nd by General 
Joffre, mainly, apparently, on account of the position of 
the Fifth Army, which on that date was close to the Marne 
with the enemy near at hand. He added : "I consider 
" that the co-operation of the British Army in the defence 
" of Paris is the only co-operation which can give useful 
" results," and suggested that it " should first hold the line 
" of the Marne, and then retire to the left bank of the 
" Seine, which it should hold from Melun to Juvisy [20 


" miles below Melim and just outside the perimeter of the 
" entrenched camp of Paris]." Late in the evening, his 
" Instruction Generale No. 4," which forecast a retreat 
Sketch behind the Seine, reached Sir John French.^ Issued at 
12a. 2 P.M. on the 1st September, it fixed as the limit of the 
retirement the line " north of Bar le Due — behind the 
" Ornain, east of Vitry le Frangois " — " behind the Aube, 
" south of Arcis sur Aube, behind the Seine south of Nogent 
" sur Seine." The Field-Marshal therefore gave orders ^ 
for the Marne to be crossed on the 3rd — as did General 
Lanrezac also to his Army — and for the retreat of the 
British Army to be resumed in a south-easterly direction ; 
for its continuance in a south-westerly direction would have 
brought it inside the perimeter of the entrenched camp of 
Paris, besides tending to increase the gap between its right 
and the left of the Fifth Army. Since this movement was 
in the nature of a flank march across the enemy's front — 
although it turned out that his columns were marching 
practically parallel to the British — it was necessary to 
make arrangements to keep the Germans off the high 
ground on the north bank of the Marne during its execution. 
Early in the morning of the 3rd September, therefore, 
the 5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades were thrown out to an 
east and west line north-eastwards of Meaux ; the former, 
which was supported by a battalion and a battery, cover- 
ing the loop of the Marne from St. Aulde westwards to 
Lizy sur Ourcq, and the latter the ground thence west- 
wards to Barcy. German cavalry patrols appeared on the 
front of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade between 8 and 9 a.m., but 
did not approach closely, and at 10.30 a.m. the brigade 
crossed the Marne at Germigny, behind the centre of its 
sector, and then moving south-eastwards behind its sister 
brigade, fell into the main road at La Ferte sous Jouarre 
at noon. The 5th Cavalry Brigade was not troubled until 
4 P.M., when a hostile column, which included four batteries, 
appeared at May en Multien, due north of Lizy on the 
western bank of the Ourcq. There was some exchange 
of rifle and artillery fire as Br. -General Chetwode slowly 
withdrew eastwards, but the Germans were evidently 
content to see him go, for they did not follow, but took up 
billets quietly on the western bank of the Ourcq from Lizy 
northwards. The 5th Cavalry Brigade then crossed the 
Marne at La Ferte sous Jouarre and reached its billets at 
7 P.M., having had no more than five casualties. 

^ Appendix 23. See Sketch 9. * Appendix 24. 


Meanwhile, having started between 3 and 4 a.m., the 3 Sept. 
1st Division had crossed the Marne at Trilport, the 2nd and i^^"*- 
3rd at Meaux, the 5th at Isles les Villenoy, the 4th at Sketch 9 
Lagny and the Cavalry Division at Gournay. Under Map 22. 
authority from General Joffre, they or the Freneh blew 
up all the bridges behind them as they moved south-east/ 
and by evening the B.E.F. was distributed along a line south 
of the Marne from Jouarre westward to Nogent, I, Corps 
patrols being again in touch with troops of the French Fifth 
Army which was also south of the Marne. The Sixth Army, 
north of the Marne, slightly overlapped the British left. 

This march too had proved a trying one ; it was long 
in point of time as well as distance, for the roads were 
crowded with vehicles of refugees, and some units were 
as much as eighteen hours on the road. 

During the morning Sir John French learnt from a 
Note issued by G.Q.G. at 9.30 p.m. on the 2nd, but which 
did not reach British G.H.Q. and other recipients until the 
3rd, that General Joffre had slightly changed his plans 
from those announced in " Instruction Generale No. 4." Sketch 
He now proposed to establish the whole of his forces on i^"^- 
a general line marked by Pont sur Yonne — Nogent sur 
Seine — Arcis sur Aube — Brienne le Chateau — Joinville, 
that is to withdraw his flanks further than originally stated, 
and then pass to the offensive, whilst simultaneously the 
garrison of Paris acted in the direction of Meaux. 

Aerial reconnaissance on this day established the fact 
that Kluck had resumed his south-eastward movement 
with rapidity and vigour : the German columns which 
had been following the British southwards had turned off 
and were now making their way eastwards and south- 
eastwards to the passages of the Ourcq. Unfortunately 
there are no British air reports after 2.50 p.m. to be found ; 
but at 5 P.M. G.H.Q. informed General Joffre and General 
Lanrezac that there did not appear to be any enemy forces 
left on the British front, and that the whole of the German 
First Ai'TJiy was about to cross the Marne between Chateau 
Thierry and La Ferte sous Jouarre to attack the left of the 
Fifth Army. Between 8.20 and 8.40 p.m. a more detailed 
message was telephoned by Colonel Huguet, on behalf of 
G.H.Q., to G.Q.G., the Fifth Army and the Military 
Governor of Paris : — 

^ The first troops of the 4th Division which arrived at Lagny found 
French engineers about to blow up the bridges there ; only with difficulty 
was a postponement obtained. 



" It results from very reliable reports from British air- 
" men, all of which agree, that the whole of the German 
" First Ar77iy except the IV. Reserve Corps [that is to say, 
" the //., ///. and IV. Corps and 18th Division] are 
" moving south-east to cross the Marne between Chateau 
" Thierry and La Ferte sous Jouarre, and attack the left 
" of the Fifth Army. The heads of the columns will with- 
" out doubt reach the Marne this evening." 

At the same time an officer was sent to General 
Lanrezac's headquarters at Sezanne with a map exactly 
showing the situation. 

The British air reports were confirmed by those of an 
aviator sent out by the French Sixth Army, who reported, 
between 7.30 and 8.30 p.m.,^ the movements of columns 
(//. Corps) from Senlis south - eastwards on the Sixth 
Army front, and a very long column {8th Division) moving 
south-east with its head at 6 p.m. at Etrepilly (close to 
Lizy on the Ourcq). Nothing could be seen of the IV. 
Reserve Corps, which had been marked down near Clermont 
on the previous evening. 

Opposite the Fifth Army the German columns were 
still marching southwards. By 11 a.m. the head of the 
German IX. Corps had already passed the Marne and 
had a sharp engagement with the French at Chateau 
Thierry, 15 miles north-east of the British right. Later 
another column of this corps crossed at Chezy (below 
Chateau Thierry), and at 6 p.m. the head of a column 
{13th Division) was reported at Mezy (6 miles above 
Chateau Thierry). 

There are no reports, from either French or British 
sources, of the Germans on the 3rd reaching the Marne 
between Chezy and La Ferte sous Jouarre (exclusive). 
The gap there between the French Fifth Army and British 
does not appear to have been watched except by a party of 
French cavalry at the bridge of Nogent, which cleared off 
on the approach of German cyclists.^ It is now known 
from German sources that Kluck's divisions, by making 
marches of 25-28 miles, secured all the bridges in this 
sector by midnight. ^ Fortunately one and all arrived too 

1 The British reports reached the Sixth Army "early in the afternoon" 
and were confirmed "several hours later." (F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 618.) 

2 " Regt. No. 24," p. 47. 

' The heads of the divisions of the III. Corps reached the bridges at 
Nogent, Saulchery, Charly and Nanteuil between 8 and 9 p.m., and estab- 
lished outposts on the heights beyond them. Of the Il\ Corps on the 
night of the 3rd/4th the German Official Account (iii. p. 23G) states that 


late at the river, for the whole of the French Fifth Army 3 Sept. 
was by that time safely across the Marne, and its left i^^'*- 
had fallen back after a fight at Chateau Thierry, and 
was now in line with the British though still separated 
by a gap of about ten miles. 

At 4.35 P.M. the British Commander-in-Chief, certain 
from the air information that Kluck was moving from west 
to east and intended no immediate action against him, 
warned his corps commanders that, unless the situation 
changed, the troops w^ould remain in their present billets, 
and would probably have complete rest next day. During 
the evening, however, Sir John became alarmed by possi- 
bilities of the situation should the Germans press into the 
gap between the B.E.F. and the Fifth Army, and at 11.50 
P.M. he issued orders ^ for the remaining bridges over the 
Marne in the British area to be destroyed and for the 
Force to be prepared on receipt of a further order to 
continue its retreat southward. If he fell back it was his 
intention to bring the whole B.E.F. behind the Grand 
Morin, and, as a preliminary, to swing back the right or 
eastern flank. The I. Corps, therefore, was to move first, 
through Coulommiers, with the 3rd and 5th Cavalry 
Brigades pushed out to the east, in order to protect its 
flank and to gain contact with Conneau's cavalry corps, 
which was reported to be at Rebais, 7 miles away. The 
II. and III. Corps and Cavalry Division were to stand 
fast until the I. Corps had reached the Grand Morin, and 
then fall back in line wdth it. Every precaution was to be 
taken to conceal the billets of the troops from aircraft. 
The movements of the British Army during the past few 
days had already misled the enemy once and, if its where- 
abouts could now be hidden, might mislead him again. ^ 

it "reached the region of Crouy" (10 miles north of Lizy) ; Kluck's map, 
on the other hand, shows its Une estabHshed south of the Marne. Neither 
location is correct. An examination of the histories of the eight infantry- 
regiments of the corps reveals that only one of them, the 66th {7th Division) 
crossed the jNIarne on the 3rd, at Saacy, arriving at midnight, and billeting 
there and in the adjoining village of Citry. All the others in this division 
marched until midnight in clear moonlight, halting, the 26th at Mery (on 
the north bank of the Marne opposite Saacy), the 27th and 165th at Dhuisy 
(6 miles N.N.W. of Saacy). In the 8th Division, the 93rd and 153rd reached 
St. Aulde (on the Marne N.N.E. of La Ferte) at 2 a.m. and midnight, 
respectively ; and the 36th and 72nd halted at two small villages, Rouget 
and Avernes (both 3 miles to the northward of La Fertc) at 2 a.m. and 
10 P.M., respectively. 

^ Appendix 25. 

^ In this, according to Kluck, the II. and III. Corps were successful ; 
the march and bivouacs of the I. Corps only were observed. 


Map 4. Accordingly, on the 4th, soon after daybreak, the 5th 
Cavalry Brigade, with the 3rd in support, advanced east- 
ward to Doue, midway between the two Morins, and sent 
patrols forward along both banks of the Petit Morin. At 
the same time it despatched the Scots Greys to the east 
towards Rcbais there to meet the French cavalry. At 
8 A.M. the patrols reported a hostile column of all arms 
moving south-east along the main road north of the Petit 
Morin from La Ferte sous Jouarre to Montmirail, but 
evidently there were parties of the enemy south of the 
valley, for a troop of the Greys found Germans at Rebais, 
and had such sharp fighting that only five of its men 
escaped. At 11.45 a.m. a column of cavalry with guns 
and three battalions of infantry — evidently a flank guard — 
were seen moving south-east on the heights between the 
Montmirail road and the Petit Morin, from Boitron upon 
Sablonnieres ; some of them, crossing the stream, attacked 
an advanced party of the 5th Cavalry Brigade about a 
mile east of Doue, but without success. The enemy seems 
then to have decided that it was time to thrust back this 
prying English cavalry, and manoeuvred to turn Br.- 
General Chetwode's position from the south ; but when 
he fell back under cover of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade and 
the Germans occupied his ground about Doue, they were 
at once engaged by E Battery, which disabled one of the 
German guns and did considerable damage among the 
gun teams. At 6 p.m. Br.-General Gough in turn with- 
drew the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, protected by the fire of 
the 113th and 114th Batteries, and by the 2nd Brigade, 
which was in position about Aulnoy. He then crossed 
the Grand Morin at Coulommiers, and made for Chailly, 
a little to the south-east. 

Meanwhile, by General Haig's orders, the 1st Division 
had at 4 a.m. been withdrawn into reserve and relieved in 
the duty of observation over the front from La Ferte to 
Sammeron (3 miles west of La Ferte) by the 2nd Division. 
There was some expectation of fighting ; for, although the 
bridges at Sammeron and St. Jean had been blown up, 
one of the two bridges at La Ferte sous Jouarre owing to 
lack of time had not been thoroughly destroyed.^ About 

^ The four bridges had been dealt with by the 23rd and 2Gth Field 
Companies R.E. The demolition of the stone-arched bridge at La Ferte 
was successful ; the second was a six-arched steel girder bridge, and the 
girders were cut through ; but the ends remained as cantilevers, and the 
gaps could be crossed by laying a few planks. There was no time to place 
heavy charges to complete the demolition. 


8 A.M. indeed a German battalion crossed the river by this 4 Sept. 
bridge/ but it did not immediately press on, and the 1st ^^^*- 
Division, pursuing its march methodically, halted at Sketch 9. 
Aulnoy and Coulommiers. During the afternoon Sir John ^^^P ^3. 
French visited I. Corps headquarters and gave General 
Haig orders to withdraw — thus for the second time pre- 
venting him from fighting. The 2nd Division, which at 
4 P.M. began to fall back by brigades in succession to the 
west of the 1st Division, upon Mouroux and Giremoutiers, 
was followed only by a few cavalry patrols. The II. and 
III. Corps and Cavalry Division actually enjoyed a day of 
rest on the 4th until after dark, when they too moved 
off south through the night, as will be related. For the 
moment the Army was concentrated on the Grand Morin. 

The information obtained by the Flying Corps on this 
day was particularly full and complete. The early (6 to 
7 A.M.) reports gave the bivouacs of all the corps of the 
Gea-man First Army except the IV. Reserve. The later 
reports established the continued march, from the front 
Chateau Thierry — La Ferte sous Jouarre south-eastwards 
across the Marne towards the left of the French Fifth Army 
and Conneau's cavalry corps, of the IX., III. and IV. 
Corps. About 4.30 p.m. two columns of cavalry were seen 
moving southwards towards the 1st Division at Aulnoy 
and Coulommiers, and some shelling was observed.^ From 
the Governor of Paris came information that the //. Corps 
was moving on Meaux and the IV. Reserve Corps on Betz 
and Nanteuil. General Franchet d'Esperey, who had 
taken over command of the Fifth Army from General 
Lanrezac ^ the previous day, continued the withdrawal of 
his troops, swinging back his left to meet the German 
threat against his flank. 

It may be noted that on this day the French Ninth 
Army, under General Foch, came into existence between 
the Fourth and Fifth Armies. It was organized, merely 
for convenience of command, from the left of the Fourth 
Army, and its formation did not, therefore, affect the 
general situation.'* 

1 The German IV. Corps and II. Cavalry Corps crossed at La Fert6 
sous Jouarre. 

2 This was the action of the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades. 

^ For an account of his sudden removal, see his book, " Le Plan de 
Cam[)agne fran^ais et le premier mois de la Guerre," p. 276 et seq. 

* The French Ninth Army came officially into existence as an inde- 
pendent command at 11 p.m. on the 4th September. It had actually been 
formed on the 29th August as a '' Detachement d'Armee." It consisted 


Sketch During the afternoon of the 4th September, also, 
12 A. General Gailieni, the recently appointed Military Governor 
of Paris, under whose direct orders the French Sixth Army 
had been acting since the 1st September "in the interests 
of the defence of Paris," came with General Maunoury to 
British headquarters at Melun.^ Sir John French was 
absent, as we have seen, visiting the I. Corps, about whose 
position he was alarmed, but to his Chief of the General 
Staff, Lieut. -General Murray, General Gailieni pointed out 
that advantage ought to be taken at once of the oppor- 
tunity the German First Army had given by offering its 
right flank. He added that he had ordered the Army of 
Paris, as he called his combined forces of the Sixth Army 
and Paris garrison, to move eastwards that afternoon, and 
that he proposed, with the concurrence of General Joffre 
whom he had informed, to attack the German IV. Reserve 
Corps, which was covering the movement of the First 
Army. This corps had been reported that morning march- 
ing in two columns towards Trilport and Lizy sur Ourcq. 
Gailieni suggested that the British Army should cease to 
Sketch retreat, and take the offensive next day in co-operation 
^2a. with his forces. In the absence of the British Commander- 
^^ ■ in-Chief, nothing could be decided, but it was settled pro- 
visionally that on the 5th the B.E.F. should change front 
so as to occupy a general line behind the Grand Morin 
from Coulommiers westwards (actually Faremoutiers — 
Tigeaux — Chanteloup), " so as to leave the Sixth Army the 
" space which was necessary for it." ^ After waiting three 
hours for Sir John French, but all in vain, at 5 p.m. General 
Gailieni departed. Whilst this interview between General 
Gailieni and Lieut. -General Murray with regard to co- 
operation was taking place at G.H.Q., another was in 
progress at Fifth Army headquarters between other French 
and British representatives. On the morning of the 4th 
General Franchet d'Esperey had expressed a wish to meet 
Sir John French, and it had eventually been arranged, as 
the Commander-in-Chief wished to go to the I. Corps, that 
the Sub-Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Wilson, 

of the IX. and XI. Corps, 52nd and 60th Reserve Divisions and 9th Cavalry 
Division from the left of the Fourth Army, and the 42nd Division from the 
Third Army. Its formation merely reduced the size of the Fourth Army, 
and put the Fourth and Ninth Armies where the Fourth had been. 

^ See " Memoires du General Gailieni. Defense de Paris," p. 121, for 
an account of this visit. For the genesis of the orders for the Battle of 
the Marne, see Note II. at end of Chapter. 

2 F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 789. 



with the head of the IntelHgence Section, Colonel Mac- 4 Sept. 
donogh, should be at Fifth Army headquarters at Bray sur 
Seine at 3 p.m. On arrival there these officers found that 
General Franchet d'Esperey had a quarter of an hour earlier 
received a telegram from General Joffre to the effect ^ that 
it might be of advantage to deliver battle next day or the 
day after with the Fifth Army, the B.E.F and the mobile 
forces of Paris, and enquiring whether the Fifth Army was 
in a fit state to fight. After comparing information as to 
the movements of the enemy, and discussing the general 
situation as far as they knew it, General Franchet d'Esperey, 
after agreement with Major-General Wilson, despatched the 
following reply to General Joffre : 

" I. The battle cannot take place until the day after to- 
" morrow 6th (sixth) September. 

" II. To-morrow, 5th Sept. the V. (Fifth) Army will con- 
" tinue its retrograde movement to the line Sezanne — Provins 
" [that is facing north-west, with a view to guarding the left 
" flank of the French main Army rather than to an offensive]. 

" The British Army will make a change of direction, so as 
" to face east on the line Coulommiers and southward — Changis 
" [6 miles east of Meaux] provided that its left flank is supported 
" bv the Sixth Armv, which should advance to the line of the 
" Ourcq to the north of Lizy sur Ourcq [8 miles north-east of 
" Meaux] to-morrow 5th (fifth) September. 

" III. On the 6th (sixth) the general direction of the British 
" offensive should be Montmirail ; that of the Sixth Army 
" should be Chateau Thierry ; that of the V. (Fifth) Army 
" should be Montmirail." 

Thus it was suggested that the Fifth Army should 
advance northwards, and the B.E.F. and Sixth Army east- 

To this message, which was timed 4 p.m., General 
Franchet d'Esperey added in his own handwriting : 

" The conditions for the success of the operation are : 

" 1. The close and absolute co-operation of the Sixth Army, 
" which must debouch on the left bank of the Ourcq to the 
" north-east of Meaux on the morning of the 6th. 

" It must be up to the Ourcq to-morrow the 5th September. 

" If not the British won't march. 

" 2. My Army can fight on the 6th, but is not in a brilliant 
" state, the three Reserve divisions cannot be counted on. 

" In addition, it would be as well that the Detachment 

^ See Note II. at end of Chapter. 


" Foch should take an energetic part in the action, direction 
" Montmort [11 miles south-west of Epernay]." 

With a note of these messages, Major-General Wilson 
and Colonel Macdonogh returned to G.H.Q. 

General Joffre had written to Sir John French earlier 
in the day confirming his intention to adhere to the plan of 
retirement already communicated to him.^ He added : 

" In case the German Armies should continue the movement 
" south-south-east, thus moving away from the Seine and Paris, 
" perhaps you will consider, as I do, that your action will be 
" most effective on the right bank of that river between Marne 
" and Seine. 

" Your left resting on the Marne, supported by the en- 
" trenched camp of Paris, will be covered by the mobile garrison 
" of the capital, which will attack eastwards on the left bank 
" of the Marne." 

On his return from visiting General Haig, the British 
Commander-in-Chief, after reading this letter, found that 
his Chief and Sub-Chief of the General Staff had come to 
two entirely different arrangements with the Governor of 
Paris and the Commander of the French Fifth Army : one 
that the British should be drawn up behind the Grand Morin, 
facing more or less northward, and the other that it should 
be north of the Grand Morin, facing east. General Gallieni's 
communication appeared to be authorized by General 
Joffre, and to be in agreement with the latter's last letter, 
whilst Franchet d'Esperey's plan might land the B.E.F., 
with its left completely exposed, in the midst of Kluck's 
Army.^ The Field-Marshal was much troubled by what 
appeared to him to be constant changes of plan ; but there 
seemed no doubt that the Generalissimo wished the B.E.F. 
to be withdrawn further to make room for the Ariny of 
Paris south of the Marne,^ and in view of the gap which 
existed between the B.E.F. and the Fifth Army, and 
" because the Germans were exercising some pressure on 
" Haig on this night [4th Sept.],"* Sir John French decided 
to retire " a few miles further south." 

At 6.35 P.M., therefore, orders ^ were issued from British 

^ See Appendix 26 for the original French. 

* Tlie German //. Corps on the 5th exactly covered the ground 
Coulommiers — Changis which Generals Franchet d'Espferey and Wilson 
had agreed should be the starting line of the B.E.F. 

3 See Sir John French's letter to Earl Kitchener. Appendix 27. 

* Lord French's " 1914," p. 109. 
^ Appendix 28. 


Ob -i 





G.H.Q. at Melun, for the Army to move south-west on the 5 Sept. 
5th, pivoting on its left, so that its rear guards would reach, i^i"** 
roughly a line drawn east and west through Tournan. The 
times of starting were left to the corps commanders. The 
Cavalry Division was further warned to be ready to move 
from the western to the eastern flank of the Army early 
on the 6th, A message informing General Gallieni of the 
movements ordered was sent through the French Mission 
at British headquarters. 

Accordingly at 3 a.m. on the 5th, the I. Corps was Map 4. 
again on the march southwards with the 3rd Cavalry 
Brigade as rear guard and the 5th as eastern flank guard. 
The latter had a skirmish at Chailly early in the morning, 
but otherwise the march was uneventful, and was indeed 
compared by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade to a march in peace 
time. The fighting troops of the III. Corps started at 
4 A.M., but the II. Corps moved off several hours earlier, 
at 10 P.M., in order to avoid the heat of the day. Both 
corps were unmolested. During the 5th, definite orders 
for the Cavalry Division to move to the right flank were 
issued, and in the course of the afternoon it started east- 
wards across the rear of the Army. 

Thus by nightfall, or a little later, the British force had Sketch 9. 
reached its halting-places south-south-east of Paris, and ^^^P 24. 
faced somewhat east of north : the I. Corps in and west of 
Rozoy, the Cavalry Division to its right rear in Mormant 
and the villages north of it, the II. Corps on the left of the 
I., in and east of Tournan, and the III. Corps on the left 
of the II., from Ozoir la Ferriere southwards to Brie Comte 
Robert, touching the defences of Paris. 

The air reports showed during the day the advance of 
the German First Army across the Grand Morin, and at 
night the bivouacs of large forces south of that river ; two or 
three corps (the ///., //. Cavalry and IV.) were between 
the Grand Morin and the Aubetin, and another corps (//.) 
between them and Crecy. South of a line through Beton 
Bezoches and west of a meridian through Crecy there were 
reported to be no Germans ; but the G.H.Q. situation 
tracing for the 5th September has " fighting at 2.45 p.m." 
marked on it in a circle around St. Soupplets, so the collision 
of Maunoury's Army with the German IV. Reserve Corps 
was known. The left of the French Fifth Army was during 
the afternoon reported to be around Provins, that is 15 
miles to the right rear of the B.E.F. 

General Franchet d'Esperey, before the conference at 


his headquarters on the 4th, had issued orders for the re- 
tirement to the Seine of the French Fifth Army on the 5th 
and 6th " as quickly as possible and with the least possible 
" losses " ; strong echelons of artillery were to be used in 
successive positions and the enemy fought by guns without 
being given a chance of holding on to the infantry. No 
modification was made in these orders in consequence of 
the question asked by General Joffre, as to when the Fifth 
Army could fight ; so the XVIII. Corps and Reserve 
divisions marched off at midnight of the 4th/5th, and the 
other formations of the Fifth Army at 1 a.m.^ Thus during 
the early hours of the 5th both Franchet d'Esperey and Sir 
John French wheeled their forces back as if opening the 
two halves of a double door, increasing the gap between 
them, and presenting an entry into the Allied line to the 

Meanwhile, during the 5th September, north-east of the 
capital, General Maunoury's Sixth Army had by General 
Gallieni's orders advanced north of the Marne towards the 
Ourcq, and in the afternoon had come into contact with 
the German IV. Reserve Corps between Meaux and St. 
Soupplets. This Army was steadily increasing in numbers 
as divisions reached it from the east.^ On the right of the 
British, and slightly to the south of them. General Con- 
neau's cavalry corps (4th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Divisions) 
was near Provins, on the extreme left of the Fifth Army, 
which had continued to retire during the 5th, and was now 
extended north-eastwards from Provins to Sezanne. Thus 
the gap in the Allied line on this side was some fifteen miles, 
with four French and British cavalry divisions at hand to 
fill it. 

Opposite the French Fifth Army and the right of the 
B.E.F., Kluck's Army had continued its south-eastward 
movement. As aeroplane reconnaissance clearly showed, 
the whole of it (except the IV. Reserve Corps and 4th 
Cavalry Division, which were observing Paris) had passed 
the lines of the Ourcq and the Marne and had wheeled to 

1 F.O.A,, i. (ii.) pp. 671-3, and Annexe No. 2394. 

2 It consisted on the 5th September of the VII. Corps (14th and 63rd 
Reserve Divisions), 45tli Division, 55th and 56th Reserve Divisions, the 
Moroccan Brigade, and Gillet's cavalry brigade — some 70,000 men, with 
Sordet's cavalry corps attached. Behind it were a group of Territorial 
brigades under General Mercier-Milon, Ebener's Group of Reserve divisions 
(61st and 62nd), and the actual garrison of Paris — four divisions and a 
brigade of Territorial troops, with a brigade of Fusiliers Marins sent for 
police duties. The IV. Corps was just arriving, so General Gallieni reckoned 
he had about 150,000 men available for action as the Army of Paris. 


the south, its front stretching along the Hne of the Grand 5 Sept. 
Morin, which its advanced troops had crossed, from ^^^'*- 
Estcrnay (near Sezanne) to Crecy (south of Meaux). On 
Kluck's left, the Second Army was a day's march behind 
him, its right slightly overlapped by the IX. Corps, so that 
for a time there was an impression that he had been re- 
inforced. The moment for which General Joffre had waited 
was come at last. Kluck, in his headlong rush eastwards, 
had, it appeared, ignored not only the fortress of Paris, but 
the Sixth Army which, with the British, was now in position, 
as a glance at the map will show, to fall in strength upon 
his right flank and rear. 

Similarly, further east, parts of the German Fifth Army 
and the Fourth Army had swept past the western side of 
Verdun, with which fortress General Sarrail's Third Army, 
facing almost due west, was still in touch. Thus, whilst the 
German Sixth and Seventh Armies were held up by the 
eastern fortresses, the Fifth, Fourth, Third, Second and 
First Armies had penetrated into a vast bag or " pocket " 
between the fortresses of Verdun and Paris, the sides of 
which were held by unbeaten troops, ready to turn on the 
enemy directly the command should come to do so. Credit 
has been claimed for General Gallieni that he first dis- 
covered the eastward march of Kluck and brought its 
significance to the notice of General Joffre, and that he 
immediately took appropriate action with the troops under 
his command, and prevailed upon the Commander-in-Chief 
to change his plan for retiring behind the Seine. Be this 
as it may, the decision to resume the offensive rested with 
General Joffre. 

The retreat of the B.E.F. had continued, with only one 
halt, for thirteen days over a distance, as the crow flies, of 
one hundred and thirty-six miles, or, as the men marched, 
at least two hundred miles, and that after two davs' strenu- 
ous marching in advance to the Mons canal. The mere 
statement of the distance gives no measure of the demands 
made upon the physical and moral endurance of the men, 
and but little idea of the stoutness with which they had 
responded to these demands. The misery that all ranks 
suffered is well summed up in the phrase of an officer : " I 
" would never have believed that men could be so tired 
" and so hungry and yet live." An artillery officer whose 
brigade marched and fought throughout the retreat with 
the same infantry brigade has noted in his diary that, on 
the average, mounted men had three hours', and infantry 


four hours' rest per day. The late General Sir Stanley 
Maude, who was on the IH. Corps Staff, has put it on record 
that he did not average three hours' sleep out of the twenty- 
four ; 1 officers of the lower staffs had less. But all these 
trials were now behind them : the Retreat from Mons was 

There have been three other notable retreats in the 
history of the British Army. All three, that of Sir John 
Moore to Corunna in the winter of 1808-9, of Sir Arthur 
Wellesley after the battle of Talavera in 1809, and again 
from Burgos to Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812, were marred 
by serious lack of discipline, though the first was re- 
deemed by its results and the success of the final action at 
Corunna, while the last was reckoned by critics to be the 
greatest of Wellington's achievements. The Retreat from 
Mons, on the other hand, was in every way honourable to 
the Army. The troops suffered under every disadvantage. 
The number of reservists in the ranks was on an average 
over one-half of the full strength, and owing to the force 
of circumstances the units were hurried away to the area 
of concentration before all ranks could resume acquaintance 
with their officers and comrades, and re-learn their business 
as soldiers. Arrived there, they were hastened forward 
by forced marches to battle, confronted with greatly 
superior numbers of the most renowned army in Europe, 
and condemned at the very outset to undergo the severest 
ordeal which can be imposed upon an army. They were 
short of food and sleep when they began their retreat, they 
continued it, always short of food and sleep, for thirteen 
days ; and at the end of the retreat they were still an 
army, and a formidable army. They were never de- 
moralized, for they rightly judged that they had never 
been beaten. ^ 

The B.E.F., forming as it did only a very small portion 
of the line of the French Armies commanded by General 
Joffre, had no independent strategical role in the opening 
phases of the war. When the Germans turned the Allied 
left by an unexpectedly wide movement through Belgium, 
the Generalissimo decided that his only chance of stopping 
them was "" by abandoning ground and mounting a new 
operation " ; ^ to this Sir John French had naturally to 
conform. The operation, which involved the assembly of a 

1 Callwell's " Sir Stanley Maude," p. 120. 

* A table of the length of the daily marches will be found in Appendix 29. 

3 Rapport du General Jolfre au Ministre de la Guerre, 25th Aug. 1914. 


new Army in the west to outflank the enemy, required time 5 Sept. 
to prepare. General Joffre at first hoped, whilst his First i^^"*- 
and Second Armies held Lorraine, to be able to stand on Sketch 
the line Verdun — river Aisne (Vouziers — Berry au Bac) — 12a. 
Craonne — Laon — La Fere — Ham, and thence along the ^^^ ' 
Somme. This line he intended to entrench.^ The Ger- 
mans, however, pressed on too closely to permit it, and 
widened their turning movement. There was no alterna- 
tive to fighting at a strategical and tactical disadvantage 
but a further general retirement — " hanging on as long as 
possible, avoiding any decisive action," but giving the 
enemy severe lessons as opportunities occurred.^ 

Instead of being beaten piecemeal by superior forces 
as in 1870, the French, after the initial failure of their 
offensive, withdrew in good time. Such fights as took 
place, and there were many all along the front besides 
Guise,^ resulted not in a Woerth or a Spicheren, but in 
the Allies slipping away after inflicting severe losses on 
the enemy. ^ In such operations, the B.E.F., at Mons and 
Le Cateau and in smaller actions, was eminently successful : 
it had no difficulty in more than holding its own whenever 
contact occurred, hitting hard and then marching off un- 
molested. Only those who have commanded British troops 
are able to conceive what they can accomplish. 

By some it has been thought that the B.E.F. could 
have done more ; in particular it might have assisted the 
French at Guise. It has been shown in the narrative^ 
that one of the reasons that General Joffre ordered General 
Lanrezac to take the offensive was to relieve the pressure 
on the British, and Sir John French might at least have 
allowed the I. Corps to assist. On the other hand, in his 
dangerous position on the outer flank of the Allied Armies 
for many days, he had not only to bear in mind General 
Joffre's general instructions to avoid decisive action and 
the necessity of husbanding his force for the coming battle 
when the Armies should turn, but to recall that he com- 
manded nearly all the available trained staff officers, 

^ Directive of 25th August, 10 p.m. 

^ General JolTre's letter to G.H.Q. of 30th August. 

* Beaufort, La Marfee, Murtin, Tremblois, Chilly, Launais, besides the 
Battles of Signy I'Abbaye and Rethel. 

* General Graf Stiirgkh, head of the Austrian Mission at German 
G.H.Q. , gives the heavy losses suffered by the Germans in the preliminary 
engagements as one of the principal reasons for the defeat at the Marne 
(" Im Deutschen Grossen Hauptquartier," p. 88). The extent of these 
losses has not yet been revealed. 

^ See pages 231-2. 


officers and men of the British Empire, the nucleus on 
which the New Armies were to be trained and initiated 
in war ; above all, he had to remember the instructions 
of the Government, that " the greatest care must be 
exercised towards a minimum of losses and wastage." 

On the 5th September there were some twenty thousand 
men absent of the original numbers of the B.E.F. ; but, 
as in all great retreats, a fair proportion of these rejoined 
later ; the official returns show a figure of a little over 
fifteen thousand killed, wounded and missing. The loss 
of war material is difficult to set down exactly. Some 
transport was abandoned, as is inevitable at such times ; 
many of the valises and greatcoats were discarded or burnt, 
and a very large proportion of the entrenching tools left 
behind. As to guns, forty-two fell into the enemy's hands 
as the result of active combat, and two or three more, 
through one mishap or another, were left behind. Such 
a casualty list can, in the circumstances, be only considered 
as astonishingly light. Its seriousness lay in the fact that, 
whether in guns or men, the loss had fallen almost wholly 
upon the left wing : the II. and III. Corps, and above all upon 
the II. Corps, which had borne the brunt of the fighting. 

It was impossible to expect that the deficiencies in men 
and material could be immediately made good. Practi- 
cally all units received their first reinforcements — the " ten 
per cent reinforcements " — on the 4th and 5th September, 
and these, added to the replacement of the Munsters in 
the 1st (Guards) Brigade by the Cameron Highlanders 
(hitherto Army troops), brought the I. Corps more or 
less up to strength. But the far graver losses of the 
II. Corps, especially in guns and vehicles, could not be so 
quickly repaired. The rapid advance of the Germans to 
the west had made the bases at Boulogne and Havre un- 
safe, and had actually dispossessed the British of their 
advanced base at Amiens. The advisability of a change 
of base was foreseen by the Q.M.G., Major-General Sir 
William Robertson, as early as the 24th August, and 
from that date all further movement of men or stores 
to Havre or Boulogne was stopped. By the 27th, Bou- 
logne had been cleared of stores and closed as a port of 
disembarkation ; and on the 29th St. Nazaire on the 
Loire was selected as the new base.^ At that time there 

^ The L. of C. ran from St. Nazaire by two railway routes — one via 
Saumur and the other by Le Mans — to Villeneuve St. Georges, just south- 
east of Paris, whence there was one route to a varying railliead. 

^r HJi^y^ 

t^f^ '^ -j^Sft^ 


were sixty thousand tons of stores at Havre ; also fifteen i-nSept. 
thousand men and fifteen hundred horses, besides eiglit i^i^* 
hundred tons of liay at Rouen, all awaiting transfer to St. 
Nazaire. By the 30th of August the Inspector-General of 
Communications, Major-General F. S. Robb, had tele- 
graphed his requirements in tonnage to Southampton ; 
and on the 1st September the transports for the troops 
were ordered to Havre. By the 3rd September all stores 
had been cleared from Rouen, and all troops from Havre ; 
and by the 5th every pound of stores had been removed 
from Havre. In fact, in these four days twenty thousand 
officers and men, seven thousand horses and sixty thousand 
tons of stores had been shipped from Havre to St. Nazaire, 
a considerable feat of organization, 

A mere comparison of dates, however, will show that, 
despite this great effort, some days were bound to elapse 
before the gigantic mass of stores could be landed, the new 
base thoroughly organized, and all arrangements working 
smoothly for the despatch of what was needed to the front 
by a longer line of communication. The arrival of the first 
reinforcements on the 4th and 5th September was only 
secured by most strenuous exertions. It was obvious that 
the II. Corps must enter upon the new operations with its 
ranks still much depleted, and lacking one-third of its 
divisional artillery. 


Operations of the German First and Second Armies 
2nd-5th September 1914 

The apprehensions of the British Commander-in-Chief that on Sketch 10. 
the night of the lst/2nd September General von Kluck was making Maps 2,4, 
preparations to attack him turn out to have been fully iustified.^ 21, 22, 
From a captured document,^ the German general had learnt that ^^ * '^'** 
" the British Army intended to go into rest billets midday on the 
"1st September south of the line Verberie — Crepy en Valois — La 
" Ferte Milon. It, therefore, seemed still possible to reach it." 
At 10.15 P.M. on the 1st September he issued orders for the First 
Army to attack the British next day : " the ///. and JV. Corps 
" against their front, crossing the line Verberie — Crepy at 7 a.m. ; 
" the IX. Corps, starting at 2 a.m., to envelop their right ; and the 
" //. with IV. Reserve in rear of it, to envelop their left, whilst 
" keeping a lookout toM'ards Paris. The //. Cavalry Corps was to 
" connect the IV. and //. Corps, 

1 See page 265 and Kluck, p. 81. 

2 Captured on a cyclist. (Kuhl's " Marne," p. 110.) G.O.A., iii. p. 203, 
adds that it was a I. Corps operation order captured by the German 
III. Corps. 


" These arrangements were in vain, the British Army escaped 
" envelopment by a timely withdrawal," for it slipped away in 
the night, as already related. The only collision that took place 
was near Senlis between the German II. Corps and French cavalry 
and infantry, where the latter offered a stubborn resistance. "The 
" possibility of dealing a decisive blow against the British could no 
" longer be reckoned on." Kluck, therefore, after another half 
day had been wasted, determined to wheel his two eastern corps 
south-east against the flank of the French Fifth Army in order to 
assist Billow. The rest of the First Army was to continue its ad- 
vance on Paris. Orders to this effect were issued at 12.15 p.m. and 
1 P.M. on the 2nd. In spite of von Kluck's zigzag movements 
subsequent to the battle of Le Cateau, his Army was by this time a 
clear day's march ahead of the Second, and on the night of the 2nd 
his general front curved forward from near La Ferte INIilon to Senlis. 

On the 28th August, it will be recalled,^ the German Supreme 
Command (O.H.L.) in pursuance of the Schlieffen plan had ordered 
the Second Army to march on Paris, and the First Army on the lower 
Seine, assuming that at least the French centre and left were in full 
retreat on the capital. After the battle of Guise (29th-30th August) 
both Kluck and Biilow had departed from these orders : the former 
turned south-eastwards to help Biilow who, instead of marching on 
Paris, was preparing to follow the French Fifth Army due south. 

Approval of this change had been given by O.H.L. late on the 
30th, but it was not until the night of the 2nd/3rd September that 
further orders, embodying a new plan, evidently founded on the 
optimistic reports received from the Armies, were issued by O.H.L, 
in the form of a message to the First and Second Armies. This ran : 

" The French are to be forced away from Paris in a south-easterly 
" direction. 

" The First Army will follow in echelon behind the Second Army, 
" and will be responsible henceforward for the flank protection of 
" the force. 

" The appearance of some of our cavalry before Paris, as well as 
" the destruction of all railways leading to Paris is desirable." 

These orders placed Kluck in an unpleasant dilemma : ^ the 
Second Army was " a heavy day's march behind the mass of the 
" First Army.'''' To march back a day in order to get into the echelon 
position desired would have made it impossible to drive the French 
south-eastwards, an operation which the First Army had initiated 
and alone was at the moment in a position to attempt. For it to 
mark time for two days was even further out of the question ; the 
success for which O.H.L. hoped could not be achieved if the First 
Army stood still. Kluck, therefore, considered that he could best 
carry out the spirit of the orders if he detailed the IV. Reserve Corps 
and a cavalry division for the flank protection against Paris, and 
moved forward with the rest of his Army across the Marne to drive 
the French south-eastwards. He kept a second corps, the //., in 
echelon behind his right as further cover against Paris, and in- 
formed O.H.L. that " the proposed driving of the enemy from Paris 
"in a south-easterly direction could only be carried out by the 
" advance of the First Army.'''' On the evening of the 3rd he issued 
orders to his corps in accordance with his own views. They began : 

^ See page 235. * See Kluck, p. 85 et seq. 


" The First Army will continue its advance over the Marne 4 Sept. 
" to-morrow in order to drive the French south-eastwards. 1014. 

" If any British are met with, they are to be driven back." 

The importance attached to the flank guard is indicated by the 
fact that it was formed only of a Reserve corps, short of a brigade 
left behind at Brussels, and the 4th Cavalry Division, which had been 
cut up at Nery. Further, no aeroplanes were allotted to the flank 
guard, and air reconnaissance was ordered to the south and south- 
east, not westwards. 

On the 4th September, therefore, Kluck continued his march 
south-south-east between the Marne and the Petit Morin, whilst 
Biilow crossed the Marne and advanced a short way south of it 
" without important fighting." At 7.30 p.m. Kluck, still under the 
impression that his principal task was to drive the Allies south- 
eastwards from Paris, and as usual quite in the dark as to the where- 
abouts of the B.E.F., issued the following orders for next day : — 

" The First Army will continue its advance against the Seine 
" with protection towards Paris. Should the British be caught 
" up anywhere they will be attacked." 

His corps were directed to cross the Grand Morin, and reach : the 
IX., Esternay ; the ///., Sancy ; the IV., Choisy ; even the //. Corps 
was to cross the JNIame and reach the Grand Morin below Coulom- 
miers ; the IV. Reserve Corps with the 41 h Cavalry Division was to 
come further southwards, to the north of Meaux, and the II. Cavalry 
Corps to go forward to Provins ; that is the First Army was sent 
southwards against the front of the Fifth Army and the gap between 
it and the B.E.F. which grew wider again on this day. 

In consequence of the Third Army being somewhat in rear of its 
place in the line south and south-east of Reims, Biilow ordered for the 
5th only a short march to Montmirail — Vertus for the Second Army, 
thus increasing the start which the First Army already had. 

During the afternoon of the 4th September, the true situation — 
that the Allies were by no means beaten and that the French were 
preparing to envelop the German right instead of submitting to 
being enveloped — dawned on O.H.L. 

How Moltke felt is recorded by Herr Helfferich, the Finance 
Minister. On the evening of the 4th September, he says : — 

" I found Generaloberst von Moltke by no means in a cheerful 
" mood inspired by victory, he was serious and depressed. He 
" confirmed that our advanced troops were only thirty miles from 
" Paris [the Kaiser had just announced this triumphantly to 
" Helfferich], ' but,' he added, ' we've hardly a horse in the army 
" ' which can go out of a walk.' After a short pause, he continued : 
" ' We must not deceive ourselves. We have had successes, but 
" ' we have not yet had victory. Victory means annihilation of the 
" ' enemy's power of resistance. When armies of millions of men are 
" ' opposed, the victor has prisoners. Where are ours ? There were 
" ' some 20,000 taken in the Lorraine fighting, another 10,000 here 
" ' and perhaps another 10,000 there. Besides, the relatively small 
" ' number of captured guns shows me that the French have with- 
" ' drawn in good order and according to plan. The hardest work is 
" ' stiU to be done.' " i 

At 6.45 P.M. the Supreme Command issued the following memo- 

» " Der Weltkrieg," ii. pp. 17, 18. 


randum and orders to all Armies. They appear of sufficient im- 
portance to quote in extensor The substance was sent out in cipher 
by wireless, and was deciphered by the First and Second Armies 
about 6 A.M. on the 5th ; the originals were carried by officers in 
motor cars, who did not arrive until " evening." 

*' 4th September — 7.45 p.m. [German time] 

" To all Armies 

" The enemy has evaded the enveloping attack of the First and 
' Second Armies, and a part of his forces has joined up with those 
' about Paris. From reports and other information, it appears 
' that the enemy is moving troops westwards from the front Toul — 
' Belfort, and is also taking them from the fronts of the Third, Fourth 
' and Fifth Armies. The attempt to force the whole French Army 
' back in a south-easterly direction towards the Swiss frontier is thus 
' rendered impracticable. It is far more probable that the enemy is 
' bringing up new formations and concentrating superior forces in 
' the neighbourhood of Paris, to protect the capital and threaten 
' the right flank of the German Army. 

" The First and Second Armies must therefore remain facing 
' the eastern front of Paris. Their task is to act against any opera- 
' tions of the enemy from the neighbourhood of Paris and to give 
' each other mutual support to this end. 

" The Fourth and Fifth Armies are still operating against 
' superior forces. They must maintain constant pressure to drive 
' them south-eastwards, and by this means open a passage for the 
' Sixth Army over the Moselle between Toul and Epinal. Whether 
' by co-operating with the Sixth and Seventh Armies they will then 
' succeed in driving any considerable part of the enemy's forces 
' towards Swiss territory cannot yet be foreseen. 

" The Sixth and Seventh Armies will continue to hold the enemy 
' in position on their front, but will take the offensive as soon as 
' possible against the line of the Moselle between Toul and Epinal, 
' securing their flanks against these fortresses. 

" The Third Army will march in the direction Troyes — Vendeuvre 
' [that is south]. It will be employed, as the situation demands, 
' either to the west to support the crossing of the First and Second 
' Armies over the Seine, or to the south and south-east to co-operate 
' in the fighting of our armies on the left wing. 

" His Majesty therefore orders : 

" (1) The First and Second Armies will remain facing the eastern 
' front of Paris, to act offensively against any operations of the 
' enemy from Paris. The First Army will be between the Oise 
' and the Marne, the Second Army between the Marne and the Seine. 
' //. Cavalry Corps will be with the First Army, I. Cavalry Corps with 
' the Second Army. 

" (2) The Third Army will advance on Troyes — Vendeuvre. 

" (3) The Fourth and Fifth Armies, by a determined advance in a 
*' south-easterly direction, will open a passage across the Upper 

^ Translated from Baumgarten-Crusius' '' Die Marneschlacht 1914," 
pp. 73-4. G.O.A., iii. pp. 311-12, gives not these written omnibus orders, 
but three separate wireless messages, to the same eilect, sent at 7.20, 7.30 
and 7.30 p.ji. to the First and Second Armies, the Third Army, and the 
Fourth and Fifth Armies, respectively. 


" IMoselle for the Sixth and Seventh Armies. The right wing of the 4 Sept. 
" Fourth Army will move through Vitry [on the Marne, 45 miles 1914 
" south-east of Reims], and the right wing of the Fifth Army will 
" move through Revigny [20 miles E.N.E. of Vitry]. The IV. 
" Cavalry Corps will operate in front of the Fourth and Fifth Armies. 
" (4) The task of the Sixth and Seventh Armies remains un- 
" changed.^ Von Moltke." 

The German Chief of the General Staff, in view of the situation, 
had first considered ordering a general halt and a rearrangement of 
the forces for a new operation, but finally had decided to carry on 
with the original plan in a modified form.^ 

The orders to the First and Second Armies, it will be observed, 
clearly intended emphasis to be laid on their remaining facing Paris 
and not attacking unless the enemy moved against them ; for, in 
accordance with German principles, every commander would act 
offensively if within reach of the enemy. 

Billow took immediate steps to obey O.H.L. orders literally. 
He stopped the advance of his Army, and wheeled the left wing 
shghtly forward, so as to begin changing the front gradually from 
south to west, in expectation that the First Army would conform. ^ 

The staff of the First Army, however, was puzzled by the orders 
— for the position of the troops in detail had been reported by wire- 
less to O.H.L. The Army could not " remain " between Oise and 
Marne, for the greater part of it had crossed the Marne. If there 
was danger brewing for the right flank in consequence of further 
transfers of troops to Maunoury, Kluck considered the best method 
of countering it was to attack all along the line. After receipt of the 
wireless summary of the orders, he therefore sent the following 
message to O.H.L. : * 

" First Army in compliance with previous instructions of O.H.L. 
" is advancing via Rebais — Montmirail against the Seine. Two 
" corps cover it towards Paris, on either side of the Marne. At 
" Coulommiers there is contact with about three English divisions, 
" at Montmirail with the west flank of the French. The latter are 
" offering lively resistance with rear guards, and should suffer very 
" considerably if pursuit is continued to the Seine. They have 
" hitherto only been driven back frontally and are noways beaten 
" out of the field. Their retreat is directed on Nogent sur Seine. 
" If the investment of Paris which has been ordered is carried out, 
" the enemy would be free to manoeuvre towards Troyes. The strong 
" forces suspected in Paris are only in the act of assembly Parts 
" of the Field Army will no doubt be sent there, but this will require 
" time. Consider breaking contact with the thoroughly battle-fit 
" Field Army and shifting of the First and Second Armies is undesir- 
" able. I propose instead : — pursuit to be continued to the Seine 
" and then investment of Paris." 

The First Army, notwithstanding this proposal, began to make 
preparations to obey O.H.L. orders, but it was practically impossible 

^ Next day, it may be added, Moltke began withdrawing the XV. Corps 
and 7th Cavalry Division from the left, to be railed through Belgium to 
reinforce the right. 

^ See page 234. 

8 Billow, p. 52. 

* Kuhl's " Marne," p. 128 et seq. The time is not given. 


at 6 A.M. to get new instructions to the corps in time to stop the 
marches in progress. The IV. Reserve Corps, close at hand, was 
directed to halt where it happened to be on receipt of the message ; 
as this order did not reach it until 11 a.m., it had already completed 
its march for the day. To the //. Cavalry Corps instructions were 
sent by wireless not to get out of touch of the Army Headquarters 
by advancing further south. As there was no signal communication 
with the other corps and the officers detailed by them to receive 
orders were due at 11 a.m. in Rebais, no instructions were sent out 
to them. It was decided that orders for the new situation should be 
issued in the evening. 

During the day reports showed that the Allies were retreating on 
the whole front from Montmirail to Coulommiers and " there was no 
sign of danger to the right flank north of the Marne." Towards 
evening Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch ^ arrived from O.H.L. to explain 
the situation, and another officer brought the written copy of the 
earlier wireless orders. Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch stated that the 
general situation was dubious (misslich). The left wing was held up 
before Nancy — Epinal, and, in spite of heavy losses, could not get 
on. The Fourth and Fifth Armies were only making slow progress. 
Apparently transfers of troops were being made from the French 
right wing in the direction of Paris. " It was reported that further 
" British troops were about to land, perhaps at Ostend. Assistance 
" to Antwerp by the British was probable." When Lieut. -Colonel 
Hentsch was informed of the preparations that had been made to 
stop the advance, he said " that they corresponded to the wishes of 
" O.H.L. , and that the movement could be made at leisure ; no 
" special haste was necessary." * 

Thus, on the afternoon of the 5th September, four corps of the 
German First Army were across the Grand Morin with two cavalry 
divisions ahead of them, but with only a weak flank guard behind 
the western flank. The Army was thus well inside the angle formed 
by the fronts of the French Fifth Army and the British Expeditionary 
Force with that of the French Sixth Army. Kluck's orders for the 
6th were not issued from Rebais until 10 p.m. They will be given 
after the British operations for that day have been described. 
There was a collision between the flank guard and the French Sixth 
Army near St. Soupplets (7 miles N.N.W. of Meaux) on the afternoon 
of the 5th ; but news of this did not reach Kluck until " late at night 
long after his orders had gone out," * and did not therefore affect his 

^ He was the General Staff officer in charge of the Intelligence Section 
at O.H.L. 

2 KuhFs " Mame," p. 128. These remarks, it is stated by Kuhl, were 
made in the presence of a witness, Lieut. -Colonel Grautoff, the senior 
General Staff officer of the First Army. In judging of the proceedings, 
Kuhl points out that it should be borne in mind that "Neither O.H.L. nor 
" the First Army staff had the remotest idea that an immediate offensive 
" of the whole French army was imminent. The continuation of the 
" French retreat was accepted as certain. . . . Not a sign, not a word 
" from prisoners, not a newspaper paragraph gave warning." 

* Kuhl's " Marne," p. 133. According to Kluck, p. 98, hostile forces 
had been reported near Dammartin and St. Mard on the 4th September. 



The Genesis of the Battle of the Marne 
Sequence of Events on the 4th September 1914 

At 9 A.M. General Gallieni, in order to be prepared to take ad- 4 Sept. 
vantage of the march of the German First Army south-eastvpards 1914. 
past Paris, issued a warning order to General Maunoury (Sixth Map 4. 
Army) : — 

" It is my intention to send your Army forward against their 
" [the German] flank, that is in an eastward direction, in liaison 
" with the British troops. 

" I will indicate your direction of march as soon as I know that 
" of the British Army. But take measures at once, so that this 
" afternoon your troops will be ready to march, and to-morrow can 
"begin a general movement east of the entrenched camp of Paris. 

" Send cavalry reconnaissances immediately into the sector 
" between the Chantilly road [which runs northward from Paris] 
" and the Marne." ^ 

Tliis plan was telephoned to G.Q.G. about 11 a.m. (possibly as 
early as 10 a.m.), with the suggestion that " an order should be 
" issued from G.Q.G. that the Army of Paris should get on the 
" march in the evening, towards the east, this Army being able to 
" operate, according to circumstances, either north or south of the 
" Marne." 

General Gallieni subsequently set out to visit British G.H.Q. as 
related in the text. 

On his return he found the following cipher telegram from the 
Commander-in-Chief (sent off at 12.20 p.m., received in Paris 2.50 
P.M.) : 

" Of the two proposals which you have made to me relative to 
" the employment of the troops of General Maunoury, I consider 
" the more advantageous one is to send the Sixth Army on the 
" left [south] bank of the Marne, south of Lagny. 

" Please arrange with the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief 
" of the British Army for the execution of the movement." ^ 

Immediately after the despatch of this message General Joffre 
telegraphed to the commander of the Fifth Army : 

*•' Circumstances are such that it might be advantageous to 
" deliver battle to-morrow or the day after to-morrow with all the 
" forces of the Fifth Army, in co-operation with the British Army 
" and the mobile forces of Paris, against German First and Second 
" Armies. 

" Please inform me if you consider that your Army is in a state 
" to do so with any chance of success. Reply at once." * 

What happened at G.Q.G. at Bar sur Aube has been related at 

^ " M6moires du General Gallieni," p. 114 ; General Clergerie's 
(Gallieni's Chief of the Staff) " Le role du Gouvernement de Paris du 1 
" au 12 septembre 1914," p. 75. 

2 F.O.A., i. (ii.). Annexe No. 2326, where it is stated that this answer 
is in the records, but not the telephone message which occasioned it. 

^ Idem, No. 2327. He also asked the same question of General Foch, 
who replied at once that he " would be ready to take part in the battle 
*' proposed for the 6th." 


length by Commandant MuUer, General Joffre's officier d'ordon- 
nance.^ The Operations Staff was divided in opinion, some of the 
officers being in favour of allowing the Germans to penetrate further 
into the space between Verdun and Paris before striking ; the others 
advocated seizing the opportunity, " essentially fleeting," which had 
presented itself. The Commander-in-Chief had not yet made up 
his mind. " The heat was stifling. Seated in the shade of a large 
" weeping ash, in the yard of the school of Bar sur Aube, or astride 
" a straw-bottomed chair, in front of his maps hung on the wall, 
" he turned over in his mind the arguments for and against. Silently, 
" as the afternoon passed, his decision ripened. . . . He came to the 
" idea of extending the local action proposed for the Paris garrison 
" to all the Allied forces of the left wing. Towards 6 p.m., without 
" waiting for the information he had requested, he ordered the 
" draft of an Instruction in this sense to be prepared." 

During dinner the answer from General Franchet d'Esperey 
arrived, which stated that the battle could not take place before 
the 6th, and towards 8 p.m., as General Joffre was making himself 
acquainted with it, he was called to the telephone by the Governor 
of Paris with reference to the telegram he had received in which 
General Joffre had stated that it would be more advantageous to use 
the Sixth Army south of the IMarne. 

" General Gallieni reported to General Joffre that the Sixth Army 
' had made arrangements to attack north of the Marne (right bank) 
' and it appeared to him to be impossible to modify the general 
' direction to which the Army was already committed, and he 
' insisted that the attack should be launched without any change 
' in the conditions of time and place already laid down. Very 
' quickly, the General-in-Chief accepted the suggestion, which, 
' for that matter, fitted in with the combined operation of which he 
' had already admitted the eventuality, and on which, at this 
' moment, considering himself sufficiently enlightened, he irre- 
' vocably decided." 

General Joffre gave his decision to General Gallieni on the tele- 
phone, and the latter was thus able to issue his definite order to the 
Army of Paris at 8.30 p.m. on the 4th for its movement eastwards 
on the north bank of the Marne, so as to be abreast of Meaux on the 
morning of the 6th, ready to attack in liaison with the British. 

For the B.E.F. and the other French Armies orders had to be 
prepared, enciphered and despatched, and this, as will be seen in the 
next chapter, took many hours, so that none of the commanders, 
except Gallieni, received instructions for the battle until the morning 
of the 5th. 

1 " 

Joffre et la Marne," pp. 81 et seq. 



Advance of B.E.F 
Positions at night are shewn hy dates. 

O Craonne 


Tournan / ^'^ N 





°^ ^ / laFerte^«V 

Jlis o / Gaucher ^. 

Rozoy *_/ ^ o, 

O . — >T'Vaudoy 





O Provins 


MILES 5 4 3 ? t O 



Ordnance Survey 1 


the battle of the marne 
6th September : The Return to the Offensive 

(Sketches B, 10, 12, 13 & 14; Maps 2, 4, 24, 25 & 26) 

In the early morning of the 5th, a Httle after 3 a.m., a Sketches 
copy of General Joffre's Instruction No. 6 for an offensive lo, 12, 
on the 6th was brought to British G.H.Q. by Colonel Jj^'^^ ^4^' 
Huguet of the French Mission. ^ It was significant that 24, 23, 26. 
the orders dealt first with the Armies of the left. Their 
general purport was that the two Armies of the centre 
(Fourth and Ninth) should hold on whilst the three 
Armies of the left (including the British Army), and the 
Third Army on the right, attacked the flanks of the 
German forces which were endeavouring to push forward 
between Verdun and Paris. On the extreme left, the Sixth 
Army, with the I. Cavalry Corps, was to cross the Ourcq 
north-east of Meaux, between Lizy sur Ourcq and May en 
Multien (4 miles north of Lizy), and attack eastwards in 
the direction of Chateau Thierry. Owing to the progress 
of the enemy, this latter order was subsequently altered 
to an advance on Meaux. The British Army, facing east, 
was to attack from the front Changis (7 miles east of 
Meaux) — Coulommiers in the general direction of Mont- 
mirail, the French II. Cavalry Corps ensuring connection 
between it and the Fifth Army. The Fifth Army (General 
Franchet d'Esperey) was to attack northwards from the 
front Sezanne — Courtacon (6 miles south of La Ferte 
Gaucher), and not north-westwards from Sezanne — Provins, 
as its commander had proposed. In the centre, the Ninth 
Army (General Foch) was to cover the right of the Fifth 
Army, by holding the southern exits of the passages over 

^ See Appendix 30. For an explanation of the delay in the receipt of 
the orders, see Note II. at end of Chapter. 



the St. Gond marshes (the gathering ground of the Petit 
Morin), but with part of its forces on the plateau west 
of the marshes. On the right, the Fourth (de Langle de 
Gary) and Third (Sarrail) Armies v/ere to act in conjunction, 
the former holding the enemy whilst the latter was to 
attack westwards against the flank of the Germans ad- 
vancing along the eastern edge of the Argonne. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, these orders not having 
reached Sir John French until the early morning of the 5th, 
it was too late, without causing confusion, to stop the 
British columns, which had started early, the II. Corps 
before midnight and the I. and III. Corps before day- 
break. They were therefore allowed to complete their 
marches southward on this day, and then rest, as already 
related ; for they were too weary to be called on to retrace 
their steps. Thus on the night of the 5th/6th, the B.E.F. 
was, on the right, 10 miles, and on the left, 20 miles in rear 
of the position, actually in occupation of the Germans, 
in which the French Commander-in-Chief expected it 
to be. 

General Franchet d'Esperey, on receipt of Instruc- 
tion No. 6 at 4 A.M., was also unable to stop the march 
of his troops ; but at 6 a.m. he issued an order slightly 
modifying the halt areas of his eastern corps, so that they 
were given greater depth ; the area of the XVIII. Corps, 
however, on the left near Provins was not changed, and 
" in the evening the Fifth Army was established north of 
" the Seine on the general line Sezanne — Provins," ^ facing 
north-west, and not on the line Sezanne — Courtacon facing 
north, as ordered by General Joffre. Thus, although the 
right was in its proper position, the left was 9 miles in rear 
of where it should have been, and 12 miles in rear of the 
British right. 

At 9 A.M., soon after Sir John French had decided to 
take part in the French offensive. General Maunoury 
arrived at his headquarters and explained fully the course 
which the Sixth Army would take, stating that it would 
be west of the Ourcq at 9 a.m. on the 6th ready to attack 
" a fond." The Field-Marshal promised his support. At 
2 P.M. General Joffre, who this day shifted G.Q.G. to 
Chatillon sur Seine (75 miles south-east of Provins), also 
arrived at British G.H.Q. " to beg in the name of France 
" the intervention of the British Army in a battle into 

1 F.O.A., i. (ii.) p. 677. 



" -which he had decided to throw his last man." ^ Visibly 5 Sept, 
moved by the appeal of the French Commander-in-Chief, ^^i*- 
Sir John French gave his word that his Army would do all 
that it was possible for men to do. 

The ground over which the British Army was about to 
advance forms part of the great plateau, east and north- 
cast of Paris, whose eastern edge, roughly indicated by 
Craonne — Reims — Epernay — Nogent sur Seine, is 400 to 
500 feet above the plain of Champagne. It is a country of 
great open spaces, highly cultivated, dotted with woods and 
villages, but with no great forests except those of Crecy, 
Armainvilliers and Malvoisine, all south of Coulommiers. 
It is cut into from east to west by the deep valleys, almost 
ravines, of the Grand Morin, the Petit Morin, the Marne, 
the upper course of the Ourcq, the Vesle, the Aisne and the 
Ailette. These rivers are passable only at the bridges or by 
bridging, and form ideal lines on which to fight delaying 
actions. Otherwise, the region on the east of the line 
Soissons — Meaux presents no definite positions. 

Sir John French's operation orders issued at 5.15 p.m. 
on the 5th September directed the Army to advance east- 
ward with a view to attacking, and, as a preliminary, to 
wheel to the east pivoting on its right, so that it would come 
on to the line — facing north-east, with the right thrown 
back and roughly parallel to the Aubetin and lower course 
of the Grand Morin, and 5 miles from them — marked by 
La Chapelle Iger (south-east of Rozoy) — Villeneuve le 
Comte — Bailly (5 miles south-west of Crecy). ^ This move- 
ment was to be completed by the right wing by 9 a.m. 
and by the left by 10 a.m. The Cavalry Division (Major- 
General Allenby) and the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades 
(acting together under Br.-General Gough)^ were to cover 

^ The scene is described at length in the books of Commandant MuUer 
(" Joffre et la Marne," pp. 105-7) and Br.-General J. L. Spears (" Liaison," 
pp. 115-18), who were both present. 

2 Sir John French's operation orders and the operation orders of the 
Cavalry Division and the I., II. and III. Corps will be found in Appendices 
31 to 35. 

General Franchet d'Esperey issued his orders at 6.30 p.m. (F.O.A., i. 
(ii.) pp. 679-80). He informed the Fifth Army that it would attack the 
German First Army in front, whilst the B.E.F. and Sixth Army attacked 
it in flank and threatened its retreat. The Fifth Army was to advance 
in echelon northwards at G a.m. on the 6th, the right in front, in the general 
direction of Montmirail, From right to left the corps were X., I., III., 
XVIII. and II. Cavalry, with the group of Reserve divisions following in 
second line between the III. and XVIII. Corps. The cavalry corps was 
to keep constantly in liaison wth the British. 

' Henceforward, until officially designated the 2nd Cavalry Division 
on the IGth September, the 3rd and 5th Cavalry Brigades acted together 


the front and flanks of the force, and connect with the 
French Armies between which the British were moving. 

Pezarches, 5 miles to the north of Rozoy, was reached 
about 7 A.M. by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade without opposition, 
and thence patrols were pushed out northwards towards 
the Forest of Malvoisine, north-eastwards upon Mauperthuis 
and eastwards upon Touquin. At all these points and also 
in the Forest of Crecy touch was gained with the enemy. 
The advanced parties of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade on the 
right flank, reconnoitring towards Pecy (5 miles east by 
south of Rozoy), in order to get in touch with the French, 
found themselves in the presence of formidable forces. 
Large masses of German cavalry could be seen moving 
southwards upon Jouy le Chatel (east of Pecy),^ but heavy 
hostile columns observed on the road north of Pecy, 
suddenly and without assignable cause, turned about while 
still two miles distant, and counter-marched to the north. ^ 
This was noticed between 8 and 9 a.m. ; but immediately 
afterwards the German cavalry and artillery became aggres- 
sive against the right flank. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade was 
shelled out of Pecy and compelled to retire for a short 
distance until the rest of the division could come up. The 
leading regiment of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, somewhat 
later, was forced back from Touquin, then shelled out of 
Pezarches and finally, having no guns in support, was 
driven back to Rigny (1 mile south-west of Pezarches). 
As it retired German battalions ^ were seen moving west- 
ward from Vaudoy towards Rozoy ; this column, which 
had been sighted by the Flying Corps earlier in the morning, 
was described by the observers as being of the strength of 
Sketch 14. a brigade, with a brigade of artillery attached to it. The 
Maps 25 i^ Corps, which was to face practically east with its centre 
* ^^' about Rozoy, was moving into position, when, about 9 a.m., 

under the command of Br,-General Hubert Gough, and the Cavalry 
Division contained the 1st, 2nd and 4th Cavalry Brigades. Br. -General 
J. Vaughan succeeded Br.-General Gough in command of the 3rd Cavalry 

^ The German II. Cavalry Corps had orders to demonstrate towards 
Lumigny — Rozoy to cover the withdrawal of the left of the German 
First Army. 

2 The advance of Marwitz's cavalry corps, according to Poseck (p. 92), 
was not stopped until " about 11 a.m. " ; it would appear that the columns 
seen to retire were ammunition or baggage columns. 

* If Kluck's map is correct, these must have been Jager. There were 
four battalions, Nos. 3, 4, 9, 10, with the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions. 
According to Kluck, pp. 152-3, tlae 3rd and 4th Jdger were carried in motor 

Sketch 14. 


its leading troops, the advanced guard of the 1st (Guards) 6 Sept. 
Brigade, found themselves checked when no more than two ^^^'^' 
miles east of Rozoy by this party of the enemy ; the II. 
Corps being, as ordered, near La Houssaye (6 miles north- 
west of Rozoy), 5 miles from the left of the I., General Haig 
felt uneasy about his left, overshadowed as it was by the 
great forests of Crecy and Malvoisine, which could easily 
conceal large numbers of the enemy. He therefore directed 
the I. Corps to halt, and its advanced guards to take up a 
covering position. On receiving Haig's report of this action, 
the Commander-in-Chief sent orders to the II. Corps to 
close in on the I. to Lumigny (4 miles north of Rozoy). 

West of the I. Corps, the II. and III. Corps had marched 
north-eastward at 5 a.m. and 3 a.m., respectively, to a line 
running from La Houssaye, through Villeneuve le Comte 
to Bailly, as ordered. Both corps reached this destination 
in the forenoon, without molestation ; for, though hostile 
patrols were encountered as the columns moved through 
the Forest of Crecy, the main body of the Germans, estim- 
ated at a cavalry division, retired at once. Shortly after 
11 A.M., however, the II. Corps as already mentioned, and 
also the III. Corps, received the Commander-in-Chief's 
orders to close in to the left of the I. Corps ; and between 
1 and 1.30 p.m. they resumed their march in the new direc- 
tion. By 3 P.M. their approach had cleared the enemy from 
the left flank of the I. Corps ; and shortly afterwards the 
1st Division, again advancing eastward upon Vaudoy, 
found that the Germans had evacuated their positions and 
retreated northward.^ 

On this day the Commander-in-Chief allotted three 
aeroplanes each to the I. and II. Corps for tactical reconnais- 
sance ; many flights were made by the R.F.C., but the 
information obtained, except of small bodies moving in 
various directions, was chiefly negative, although it re- 
vealed the retirement of the German //. Cavalry Corps on 
Coulommiers, and established that the French Fifth and 
Sixth Armies were engaged in battle. The area in front of 
the British, except on the right flank, where the German IV. 

1 The Germans in question, who had advanced to Vaudoy and Pecy, 
were the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions and a cyclist battalion ; the Jdger 
of the II. Cavalry Corps were holding the passages of the Grand Morin 
near Coulommiers. Towards 11 a.m., in consequence of the increasing 
British artillery fire and the obvious advance of infantry. General von der 
Marwitz ordered that the advance should be stopped, and at 1 p.m. that 
the fight should be broken off and a retirement made to a position just 
south of Coulommiers. 


and II. Corps had been on the previous day, was reported 
clear of troops.^ It was not until 5.15 p.m. that bivouacs 
and large assembhes of troops were reported at Rebais, 
mostly north of the town, and at Done, and correctly identi- 
fied by the Intelligence Section as the IV. Corps ; a little 
later General GaUieni reported that German troops from 
the south were recrossing the Marne above Meaux and 
reaching the Ourcq battlefield. As it had been established 
that the units of the //. Corps which had been engaged 
with the British left earher in the day had withdrawn across 
the Grand Morin, it was assumed that the greater part 
of the //. Corps was already north of the Marne, and that 
there were no important bodies of the enemy immediately 
opposite to the British except parts of the //. and IV. 
Corps and several cavalry divisions. 

At 3.30 P.M. Sir John French issued orders by telegraph 
for the I. Corps to advance to a hne just short of the Grand 
Morin, from Marolles (4 miles E.S.E. of Coulommiers) to 
Les Parichets (1 mile south-west of Coulommiers) ; for the 
II. Corps to come up to west of it from Les Parichets to 
Mortcerf (5 miles south of Crecy) ; and for the III. Corps 
to move up into the loop of the Grand Morin south-west- 
ward of Crecy, between Tigeaux (2| miles south of Crecy) 
and Villiers sur Morin (2i miles north-west of Tigeaux). 
The Cavalry Division was to advance north-east to the line 
Choisy — Chevru (4 miles and 6 miles south-west of La Ferte 
Gaucher), and cover the right flank ; and Gough's cavalry 
brigades were sent in rear of the left of the I. Corps. But by 
the time that these orders reached the I. Corps, it was too 
late for it to make more than a short move to the line 
Vaudoy — Touquin — Pezarches, 8 miles short of its intended 
destination, where it halted at 6.30 p.m. In the II. Corps, 
however, the head of the 3rd Division reached Faremoutiers: 
whence, after a few skirmishes with the German piquets, 
the 1/Wiltshire of the 7th Brigade, at 11 p.m., forced the 
passage of the Grand Morin and seized the heights of Le 
Chamois, about a mile north of the river. The other 
divisions of the II. and III. Corps also got to their places. 
The final positions taken up for the night were as follows, 
the heads of the II. and III. Corps being up to the Grand 

^ The II. Corps had marched northwards at 3 a.m., and the IV. Corps 
at 4.30 A.M., leaving weak rear guards on the Grand Morin, and the recon- 
naissances were not sent far enough afield to discover these movements 
until the afternoon. It was not until 1.45 p.m. that G.H.Q. asked that an 
area bounded on the north by Rebais should be reconnoitred. 


Morin and the I. Corps and cavalry echeloned to the right 6 Sept. 
rear : — ^^^^• 

Cavalry Division . . . Jouy le Chatel. Sketches 

I. Corps ..... Vaudoy— Touquin — Pezarches. ^' ^^ 
Cough's Cavalry Brigades . Pezarches — Lumigny. Alans 4 

II. Corps : & 26. 
3rd Division . . . Lumigny northward to Fare- 

5th Division .... IMortcerf northward to La Celle 

sur Morin (1| miles west of 

III. Corps Villiers sur Morin southward 

to Villeneuve le Comte and 
Villeneuve St. Denis. 

The intelligence gathered during the day by the French 
and British was thus summed up at night, correctly except 
as regards the //. and / V. Corps : the ///. and IX. German 
Corps, with the Guard Cavalry Division on their western 
flank, were opposing the French Fifth Army south of the 
Grand Morin on the line Esternay — Montceaux — Couper- 
driz (5 miles W.S.W. of Montceaux) : echeloned to the 
west in second line between the Grand and Petit Morin 
were part of the German IV. Corps at Rebais, wdth the 
5th Cavalry Division in front of it north of Marolles, the 
greater part of the //. Corps near Meaux, and the X. 
Reserve Corps (as was conjectured) west of Montmirail : 
the 2nd and 9th Cavalry Divisions were opposite the British, 
and the remainder of the IV. Corps, the IV. Reserve 
Corps and the 4th Cavalry Division opposite the French 
Sixth Army. Both the Fifth and Sixth French Armies 
were reported to have pressed the enemy back ; but of 
their position G.H.Q. had no more information than was 
derived from British air reports. One of these stated that 
at 4 P.M. the Fifth Army was fighting south of Esternay 
and north of Villers St. Georges, and another that at 5 p.m. 
the Sixth Army was still west of the Ourcq, where on the 
northern flank. May — Marcilly, a good deal of movement 
was going on and many shells were bursting. Sir John 
French therefore issued no orders on the night of the 6th 
September except a Special Order of the Day ^ and a warn- 
ing that all the troops should be ready to move at short 
notice any time after 8 a.m. By evening practically all 
the " first reinforcements " for the British Army had 
arrived from the Base. 

^ Appendix 36. 


The French on the 6th September* 

Sketch 14. There had been a collision, the beginning of " the Battle of the 
Maps 25 Ourcq," as we have seen, on the afternoon of the 5th, between 
& 26. the leading troops of General Maunoury's Sixth Army and the flank 

guard of the German First Army, under General von Gronau, con- 
sisting of his IV. Reserve Corps and the remains of the 4th Cavalry 
Divisioyi (cut up at Nery). The German force, " driven into a semi- 
" circle of 2^ miles' radius, and under fire of superior artillery," had, 
during the night, fallen back and broken contact. During the 6th — 
a day of taking contact all along the front — the Moroccan Brigade, 
45th, 55th Reserve, 56th Reserve, 63rd Reserve and 14th Divisions 
had moved forward, getting touch with the German infantry from 
10.30 A.M. onwards, and driving it in, so that at night, after Gronau 
had been reinforced, the two opponents were facing each other west 
of the Ourcq on a nearly north and south line, Varreddes (north-east 
of Meaux) — Etrepilly — Acy. There, with little change except ex- 
tension northwards, they were to remain until the last day of the 
battle. Between the right of Maunoury's Army and the left of the 
B.E.F. there was a gap of eight miles, in which, tending to increase 
the separation, lay both the IMarne and its tributary the Grand 
Morin. At 4.30 p.m., however, G.Q.G. telephoned to G.H.Q. stating 
that a division and a cavalry brigade would arrive early on the 
7th on the left of the B.E.F. to fill the gap and furnish support to 
the British left flank. 

The French Fifth Army also made little progress on the 6th. 
Having on the previous day, like the B.E.F., continued the retreat, 
it had not, on the night of the 6th/7th, except on the right and a 
single point in the centre (Montceaux at 10 p.m.), reached the line, 
the great highway Sezanne — Esternay — Sancy — Courtacon, fixed 
by General Joffre as its starting line at the opening of the battle in 
the morning. It did not move on the 6th until 6 a.m. and its average 
advance was only four or five miles, as it proceeded with the utmost 

In his orders issued at 6.30 p.m. on the 5th, General Franchet 
d'Esperey ordered his corps to march northwards to the attack, in 
echelon, the right leading, adding, " the corps commanders will take 
" great care not to engage all their infantry at once, as the operation 
" will probably last several days." 

Conneau's cavalry corps at noon found that there was no enemy 
within nine miles ; but it did not push on to the great highway. 
Towards evening, going forward again at 4.30 p.m., it had an exchange 
of artillery fire with Germans established in Courtacon, and then, as 
the day had been hot and water was scarce, the whole corps except 
one division was sent back to Provins, the starting place of the 

Until midday the XVIII. Corps, the left corps of the Fifth Army, 
did nothing but reconnoitre and push forward advanced guards, 
which were " not to engage any important element of the enemy 
" beyond the Aubetin," which runs 2^ miles south of the great high- 
way. The III. Corps, its 5th and 6th Divisions commanded by 
Generals Mangin and Petain, advanced at first without difficulty, 
then received artillery fire from heavy guns, and, about noon, being 

^ Summarized from the French Official Account. 


two miles south of the great highway, was getting ready to attack 6 Sept. 
tiie Germans reported on it. The I. and X. Corps drifted north- 1914. 
eastwards, for, as early as 9 a.m., the left of Foch's Army was calling 
for help ; at noon, the 1st Division, the left of the I. Corps, was held 
up two miles south of Esternay by machine-gun fire ; the 2nd 
Division and X. Corps had seen nothing of the enemy. 

At 1.30 P.M. General Franchet d'Esperey issued the following 
order : 

" In order that the co-operation of the neighbouring Armies may 
" make itself effectively felt, the P'ifth Army will not this evening 
" cross the line [left to right] Couperdrix [2 miles south of the great 
" highway] — Montceaux [on the highway] — Courgivaux — Esternay 
" [both on the highway] — Clos le Roi — Charleville [5 miles north of 
" the highway]. 

" On this front, all the corps and the Group of Reserve divisions 
" will very solidly entrench, so that they can resist coute que coute 
" any enemy counter-attack." 

Except in the centre, the line defined, facing north-west, was 
reached, after some fighting with German rear guards, the III. Corps 
losing Courgivaux after it had reached the village, and the X. 
Corps being driven back a little. 

At night the Fifth Army ordered for the 7th : " continuation of 
" the offensive mancEuvre under the same conditions of economy 
" of force." The X. Corps, then ahead, was to start at 7.30 a.m., 
the other corps at 6 a.m. 

The operations of the French Ninth Army, on the right of the 
Fifth, must receive some notice, as they had a most important in- 
fluence on the battle. 

The Ninth Army had been ordered " to cover the right of the 
" Fifth Army," by " holding the southern exits of the Marshes of St. 
" Gond," and " sending part of its forces to the plateau north of 
" Sezanne." It would seem that General Foch determined to take 
a share in the offensive with his left and centre, leaving the pro- 
tection of the flank of the Allied attack to his right wing alone. He 
put his XI. Corps (2 divisions) behind the upper course of the Somme 
(which, running north-west, almost touches the Marshes of St. Gond 
before turning north-east), and the IX. Corps (3 di\asions) behind the 
marshes, but directed it on the 5th to push strong advanced guards 
over them and be prepared to advance on the 6th. The left, the 
42nd Division (not attached to a corps), was sent to the plateau 
north of Sezanne, but definitely ordered to attack with the Fifth 
Army on its left. 

On the 6th, the advanced guards of the IX. Corps were driven 
back across the marshes, which could only be crossed on a few cause- 
ways ; the XI. Corps lost the line of the Somme, its left falling back 
about one and a half miles, and Foch reinforced it with the one 
division in his reserve. The 42nd Division left the plateau and 
attempted to advance northwards, but, meeting the German 19th 
Division {X. Corps), was driven back and appealed to the X. Corps 
(Fifth Army) on its left for help. 

Of the rest of the French forces on the eastern wing, it need 
only be said that the First Army (General Dubail) and Second Army 
(General de Castelnau) successfully resisted the attacks of the German 
Seventh and Sixth Armies under Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, 
although the XV. Corps had been taken from de Castelnau and tlie 


XXI. Corps from Dubail and sent to fill the gaps on either flank of 
the Fourth Army, near Revigny and Mailly. So stout was the French 
defence that on the 8th September Moltke decided to " abandon the 
" Lorraine enterprise completely, as it had no hope of success." 
The Third Army (General Sarrail) and Fourth Army (Gen. de Langle 
de Gary) also practically held their ground, with some vicissitudes, 
against the German Fifth and Fourth Armies and the left half of the 
Third Army ; their success was mainly due to the field artillery, which 
pinned the Germans to the ground by day, and induced the German 
Crown Prince to attempt, without much success, a night attack. 


The German Right Wing on the 6th September 

Sketch 14. On the evening of the 5th September, the German First Army 
Maps 25 had four corps {IX., III., IV. and //.) and two cavalry divisions 
^ 26. {2nd and 9th) south of the Marne, beyond the Grand Morin. Only 

the extreme left had been in contact with French rear guards, and 
it was assumed by General von Kluck that both British and French 
would continue their retreat next day. North of the Marne, and 
west of the Ourcq, was the flank guard, consisting of the IV. Reserve 
Corps and the 4th Cavalry Division, in action with Maunoury's 
Army. During the evening an officer of the //. Corps, who came to 
Army Headquarters to receive orders, brought an air report that the 
flank guard was in action against an enemy from the direction of 
Paris ; but no special attention was paid to this " in no way alarm- 
ing " report. At 10 pjvi. General von Kluck issued the following 
orders for the 6th : * 

" After the First Army, in co-operation with the Second Army, 
" has driven the British and French opposite them over the Seine, 
" both Armies have been assigned by O.H.L. the task of remaining 
" opposite the east front of Paris in order to deal offensively with 
" hostile enterprises from Paris, the First Army between Marne and 
" Oise, the Second Army between Marne and Seine. Aviators report 
" strong hostile columns in retreat on Tournan and Rozoy, as well 
" as from Courtacon on Provins, and from Esternay on Nogent sur 
" Seine." 

Summarizing the details, the three corps on the right were to 
make a retirement, short on the left (east) and some fifteen miles on 
the right (west), so as to face south-west, the ///. going to La Ferte 
Gaucher, the IV. to Doue, and the //. to north-east of Meaux, 
whilst the IX. Corps (next to the Second Army) and the IV. Reserve 
Corps (the flank guard) halted, and the two cavalry divisions covered 
the march of the three left corps by advancing to the area around 
Rozoy — Lumigny — where they ran into the right of the B.E.F. 

Nothing had been heard from the flank guard during the 5th, 
but towards midnight, after the issue of the above order, a telephone 
message was received from the //. Corps that the IV. Reserve Corps 
had run into an enemy of superior force, and, after dusk, had retired 
(6 miles) behind the Therouanne stream. At 4.30 a.m. on the 6th 
it retired still further to a north and south line through Etrepilly. 
Later a staff officer, whose car had broken down, arrived from the 

1 Given in full in Kluck, pp. 106-8. 


IV. Reserve Corps, and gave a clear account of the danger threatening G Sept. 
the flank of the Army. Kluck decided to support the IV. Reserve 1914. 
Corps, and at once ordered the //. Corps to its assistance. The 
corps started northward at 3 a.m., sending artillery ahead, and leav- 
ing only weak rear guards on the Grand Morin. It began to reach 
the Ourcq battlefield about 10 a.m., from which, about 3 p.m., one 
of its divisions, the 3rd, on the southern flank, reported that it was 
in difficulties, being attacked by British forces ! This report as it 
happened misled O.H.L. (see Sketch 16). The IV. Corps, according 
to the original order, recrossed the Grand Morin at 4 a.m. without 
interference, and by 9 a.m. was assembled, the 7th Division near 
Rebais and the 8th near Doue, where they remained all day, just 
beyond the area reconnoitred by the British airmen until the late 

Owing to the critical state of affairs on the Ourcq, at 4.30 p.m. 
the IV. Corps was sent an order (received at 5.45 p.m.) to "march 
" to-day north of La Ferte sous Jouarre, in order to be ready to sup- 
" port the IV. Reserve Corps and //. Corps.''' At 9.30 p.m. a further 
order was issued for it to continue its march during the night so as 
to be on the Ourcq battlefield by the grey of dawn. The divisions 
of the corps started off at 8 p.m. and marched all night, covering 
twenty-five to twenty-seven miles. After a short halt for coffee 
about 4 a.m. they reached the battlefield between 7 and 8 a.m. on 
the 7th. 1 

By the removal of the //. and IV. Corps the country north of the 
B.E.F. was entirely cleared of troops except weak rear guards on the 
Grand ]Morin, and the two cavalry divisions which, as we have seen, 
had fallen back on Coulommiers. When the IV. Corps marched 
back. General von der Marwitz was directed to cover the front 
vacated by it and the //. Corps. To assist in this Richthofen's 
cavalry corps was also available, as it had moved during the 6th to 
the right of the ///. Corps, now Kluck's right corps beyond the 
Mame. Owing to French artillery fire, the ///. Corps had not been 
able to carry out its retirement to La Ferte Gaucher, and had taken 
up position to protect the right of the IX. Corps, which was surprised 
by fire and very soon seriously engaged with the French Fifth Army, 
around Courgivaux. 

In the Second Army, in obedience to the O.II.L. instruction to 
face towards Paris, General von Biilow issued the following order on 
the evening of the 5th September, which, if it had been possible to 
carry out, would have left the Army facing south-west with half its 
wheel towards Paris completed : 

" The /. Cavalry Corps will observe the south front of Paris 
" between Mame and Seine. The VII. Corps [near Montmirail] 
" will remain in its quarters, ready to march. It will maintain con- 
*' stant communication with the First Army. 

" The X. Reserve, X. and Guard Corps will, with their advanced 

^ The maps both of the German Official Account and of the oflficial 
monograph " Das Marnedrama " show the 7th and 8th Divisions still at 
Kebais and Doue at midnight on the 6th/7th, and neither account mentions 
the time of starting nor the night march ; but the histories of seven of 
the eight infantry regiments which are available all give the above times 
and speak of the hardships of the long night march, the men depressed by 
the knowledge that they were retiring by the roads by wliich they had 
advanced a few days earlier, 



*' guards, reach the line Montmirail — Marigny le Grand [7J miles 
*' south of Fere Champenoise]." 

The attempted advance, as we have seen, brought the Second 
Army, supported on the left by half of the Third Army, and on the 
right by the IX. and ///. Corps of the First Army, in contact with 
Foch's troops and Franchet d'Esperey's right (X.) corps. But, as 
the German Official Account says, " in spite of every sacrifice, and in 
" spite of heavy losses, they could gain only a Uttle ground towards 
" the south." 

Thus, on the night of the 6th/7th, the Second Army was still 
facing south ; on its right the IX. and ///. Corps of the First Army 
faced E.S.E., all except the western half of the III, Corps in contact 
with the French. On the Ourcq, facing west, the II. and IV. Reserve 
Corps were engaged with Maunoury's Army, with the IV. Corps 
hurrying to their assistance. To fill the gap between the two halves 
of the First Army, over thirty miles across, opposite the B.E.F., 
there were available only four cavalry divisions, with a few cyclist 
and Jdger battalions. A series of rivers, however, the Grand Morin, 
the Petit INIorin and the Marne, gave the German troops excellent 
lines on which to stand and delay an enemy .^ 


The Despatch of General Joffre's Order for the 
Battle of the Marne 

According to the French Official Account [i. (ii.) p. 785], ciphered 
telegraphic orders were despatched on tlie 4th September to the 
Fifth and Sixth Armies at 11.15 p.m. ; to the Ninth Army and the 
Military Government of Paris at 11.50 p.m. ; and to the French 
Mission at G.H.Q. at 12,10 a.m. on the 5th. Copies were also carried 
by officers in motor cars. The first copy, whether written or tele- 
graphed is not stated, reached General Foch at 2.30 a.m. ; General 
Franchet d'Esperey at 4 a.m. ; General Gallieni, at about the same 
time (he telephoned at 4.30 a.m. to G.H.Q. to say that he had 
" received definite orders, and am sending you a copy by a French 
" officer, who is leaving at once in a fast car," and this copy is marked 
4 a.m.) ; and Colonel Huguet, about 3 a.m. (p. 95 of his book, English 
translation). At 10 p.m. Lieut. -Colonel Brecard, the liaison officer 
between G.Q.G. and the French Mission at G.H.Q., had telephoned 
to Colonel Huguet, " J'y ai trouve une solution un peu differente 
" resultant de la conference de Bray entre le general Wilson et le 
" general Franchet d'Esperey, solution que le general Joffre avait 
" prise comme base de ses ordres. Copie de ces ordres vous est 
" envoye en telegramme chiffre que je vous prie de transmettre au 
" marechal French en lui demandant son assentiment." It was 
added that written confirmation of the telegram would be carried by 
an officer. Captain de Galbert. There is no note in the records of 
G.H.Q. or of the French Mission that this warning of fresh orders 
being on their way was delivered to G.H.Q. by Colonel Huguet. 

^ The operations of the German cavalry which opposed the B.E.F. on 
the 6th and three following days have been worked out in great detail, 
with many sketch maps, by Lieut.-Colonel Pugens in " Deux Corps de 
" Cavalerie a la Bataille de la Marne " (Paris, Berger Levrault). 


According to Commandant Muller, Joffre's offlcier d'ordonnance 6 Sept. 
(" Joffre et le Marne," pp. 93-4), Captain de Galbert (later killed in 1914. 
action) left G.Q.G. (Bar sur Aube) at about 11 p.m. for Melun, 90 
miles away, with special instructions to clear up any misunderstand- 
ing there might be as to which of the various plans that had been 
discussed was to be executed. He returned at 9 a.m. " without 
" having been able to take direct contact either with the Field- 
" Marshal or his staff." The use of the word " direct " is no doubt 
intended to convey that he reached the French Mission, but was not 
allowed by Colonel Huguet to see any British officer. 

In " 1914 " (p. 109), Sir John French states that Colonel Huguet, 
" with a staff officer from Joffre," visited him during the night and 
communicated to him the French Commander-in-Chief's proposals. 
On the other hand, Huguet in his book (p. 95) distinctly says that 
General Wilson took Joffre's orders to Sir John French soon after 
3 A.M., and this is confirmed by the entry in Sir Henry Wilson's diary 
(" Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson," i. p. 174) : " At 3 a.m. Huguet 
" brought me Joffre's orders." It continues, " I went to see him 
" [i.e. Sir John French] at 7 a.m., and he has agreed to retrace his 
" steps and join in the offensive." 

The officers on duty at G.H.Q. on the night of the 4th/5th saw 
nothing of Captain de Galbert. Immediately after the latter's return, 
however, a telephone message was received at G.Q.G. notifying Sir 
John French's adhesion in principle to the operations ordered — no 
doubt as the result of General Wilson's 7 a.m. visit — so de Galbert's 
failure was of no consequence. 



7th September : The March to the Grand Morin 

(Sketches B, 13 & 15 ; Maps 4, 25 & 27) 

Sketch 15. OwiNG to delay in transit, the instructions from General 
Joffre to push on, not eastwards as first ordered, but 
northwards, echeloned left in front so as to be ready to 
fall on the right flank of the German forces if they offered 
battle to the Fifth Army, did not reach G.H.Q. at Melun 
till 11 A.M. on the 7th. But the British cavalry was early 
on the move ; the Cavalry Division on the right pushed east- 
ward to the Grand Morin, upon Leudon (3| miles south of 
La Ferte Gaucher) and Choisy, and the 3rd and 5th Cavalry 
Brigades on its left, northward upon Chailly and Coulom- 
miers. The advanced parties of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade 
found that the Germans had left Mauperthuis (3 miles 
south of the Grand Morin) just as they themselves entered 
it. The enemy seemed to be withdrawing his covering 
troops northward. The 4th Cavalry Brigade, advancing 
further east, came upon cavalry, cyclists and guns south 
of Dagny (2 miles south-west of Choisy), and forced them 
back north and east across the front of the 2nd Cavalry 
Brigade. The 9th Lancers, who were at the head of 
the latter brigade, thereupon pushed on to the hamlet of 
Moncel, a mile and a half to the south-east of Dagny, which 
was held by the enemy. A German patrol was driven out of 
the latter, and it was then occupied by a squadron of the 9th. 
A troop of the 9th was sent northward to protect the left 
flank of this squadron ; another troop, with Lieut. -Colonel 
D. G. M. Campbell and the headquarters of the regiment, 
halted at the northern outskirts of the village ; and the 
machine-gun section was posted in an orchard to the west 
of it. A patrol presently reported the advance of a German 



Page 308. To the chapter heading : " 7th September : The March to the 
Grand Morin ", add a footnote : 

" The operations of the German cavalry which opposed the 
B.E.F. on the 7th and two following days have been worked 
out in great detail, with many sketch maps, by Lieut. - 
Colonel Pugens in ' Deux Corps de Cavalerie a la Bataille 
' de la jNIarne ' (Paris, Berger Lcvrault), published in 1934. 
The author seems better informed as to the German move- 
ments than as to the British." ^ 

Sketch 15 


squadron, one hundred and twenty strong, which came up 7 Sept. 
at a canter in one rank towards Colonel Campbell's party. ^^^'*' 
Unfortunately the machine gun jammed immediately ; ^ 
but Colonel Campbell with about thirty men charged 
at once at top speed. The Germans did not increase 
their pace to meet the shock and were completely over- 
whelmed, as far as the narrow front of the 9th Lancers 
extended. Colonel Campbell was wounded, but the 
survivors were rallied and led back into Moncel ; the 
Germans, fearing a trap, did not follow. Further to the 
right, a squadron of the 18th Hussars working its way for- 
ward on foot was charged just beyond Faujus (2|- miles 
south of Choisy) by a weak German squadron, ^ which it 
practically annihilated by rapid fire at two hundred yards' 
range. Sixty-three of the 1st Guard Dragoons were killed 
or wounded in this affair, and only three escaped ; the 
18th Hussars had only two of their led horses slightly 

To the west of the cavalry, the Wiltshire (3rd Division), 
in their advanced position across the Grand Morin near 
Le Chamois, were attacked at 6 a.m. by some two hundred 
dismounted men of the Guard Cavalry Division, whom they 
beat off without any difficulty. The 2/South Lancashire, 
making its way forward to cover the right of the Wilt- 
shire, was engaged by the enemy in the woodlands and 
suffered some loss. Cyclist patrols of the III. Corps, 
however, ascertained that by 7 a.m. the ground within a 
radius of 3 miles north and north-west of Crecy on the 
Grand Morin was clear. Aerial reconnaissances con- 
firmed the general impression that the enemy was with- 
drawing northward, though there were still considerable 
bodies both of cavalry and infantry just north of the 
Grand Morin beyond La Ferte Gaucher. 

Acting upon this information the Field-Marshal issued 
orders at 8 a.m. for the Army to continue its advance north- 
eastward across the river in the general direction of Rebais. 
The corps were to march north-eastwards upon as close a 
front as the roads would permit, and on reaching the line 
Dagny — Coulommiers — Maisoncelles, the heads of columns 
were to halt and await further orders. Meanwhile, the 

^ The German account in Vogel is that the gun was spotted, and that 
a sergeant and six men galloped up, drove off the gun crew and damaged 
the mechanism with a stone ; otherwise the two accounts agree. The 
attackers were Rittmeister von Gayling's (2nd) squadron, 1st Guard 

* Two-thirds of the 4th Squadron, 1st Guard Dragoons (Poseck, p. 99). 


Cavalry Division moved northward, making good the 
course of the Grand Morin as far east as La Ferte Gaucher ; 
it met nothing but a few patrols, but ascertained that 
a German cavalry brigade and a battery had re-crossed 
the Grand Morin at 3 a.m. The 5th and 3rd Cavalry 
Brigades also pushed northward, the former on Rebais, 
the latter on Coulommiers. The 3rd met with some 
little resistance at the bridges over the Grand Morin 
just east of Coulommiers, and its guns came into action to 
silence some German artillery on the north bank of the 
stream, and to shell retiring parties of the enemy. This 
caused some delay, but the brigade was able to pursue 
its way 4 miles towards Doue, where it was checked by 
infantry and machine guns. The 5th Cavalry Brigade, 
with little hindrance, between 5 and 6 p.m. reached Rebais, 
whence the German rear parties retired leaving a few 
prisoners in the hands of the British. 

Behind the cavalry screen, the infantry continued its 
march without serious incident ; the arrival of the " first 
" reinforcements " had tended to raise the spirits of the 
men, and there was cheering evidence of the enemy's de- 
moralization. The country near the roads was littered 
with empty bottles ; and the inhabitants reported much 
drunkenness among the Germans. Indeed, some British 
artillery drivers while cutting hay discovered German 
soldiers, helplessly drunk, concealed under the topmost 
layer of the stack. 

Sir John French issued no orders for any advance beyond 
the line Dagny — Maisoncelles, but General Haig, in order 
to keep touch with the French, swung his right five miles 
forward to the Grand Morin. Thus the general forward 
movement on the 7th, although it brought the infantry 
up to and across the Grand Morin and met General Joffre's 
wishes, did not average more than seven or eight miles. 

The positions taken up by the Army for the night 
beyond and along the Grand Morin were as follows : — 

ketches Cavalry Division . . . South of the Grand Morin at 

|,13&15. Choisy, Feraubry. 

.27^ 5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades, North of the Grand Morin on 

and 4th (Guards) Brigade the west side of Rebais. 

I. Corps (less 3rd and 4th Along south bank of the Grand 

Brigades) Morin from Jouy sur Morin 

to St. Simeon. 
3rd Brigade .... La Bochetiere (9 miles south- 
east of Coulommiers). 


II. Corps Along north bank of the Grand 7 Sept. 

Morin from Chauffry to 1914. 

III. Corps North of the Grand Morin in 

front of Maisoncelles, facing 
north-east, from Giremou- 
tiers to La Haute Maison. 

Throughout this day the Fifth and Sixth French Sketch is, 
Armies were reported to be making good progress. By 05^?^ o^ 
evening General Franchet d'Esperey's XVIII. Corps — the 
cavalry on its left being in touch with the British — and 
III. Corps, had reached the Grand Morin, the heads of the 
5th and 6th Divisions getting across its upper course. 
The I. and X. Corps were abreast of them. The position 
of the Army was reported to be a line from Charleville (7 
miles south-east of Montmirail) to La Ferte Gaucher. 
General Maunoury, having advanced to the line Penchard 
— Etrepilly — Betz, some five miles west of the Ourcq, was 
able to report that German artillery was retiring to the 
eastern bank of that river. There was still a gap of some 
ten miles between his Army and the British, but there 
were assembling in this gap, south of the Marne at Meaux, 
the 8th Division of the IV. Corps and a cavalry brigade. ^ 
Aerial reconnaissance indicated that Kluck was with- 
drawing two of his corps (//. and IV.)^ with all haste north- 
ward ; and, from identifications by contact during the day 
and the fact that two German cavalry divisions had been 
seen between 5.15 and 6.30 p.m. moving into bivouac at 
Orly (3j miles north and a little west of Rebais), with yet 
more cavalry passing northward to the east of them, to 
Le Tretoire, Bellot and other passages of the Petit Morin, 
it seemed as if the enemy was trusting to the I. and //. 
Cavalry Corps ^ to hold the British in check at the Petit 

^ The IV. Corps had been brought from the Third Army to Paris ; 
its 7th Division had been badly cut up at Ethe, and its 8th at Virton, on 
22nd August. Of the latter, General de Lartigue, its commander, reported : 
" full (bourree) of reservists recently arrived at the depots, and with in- 
" sufficient officers and N.C.O.'s [most of whom had fallen], it had only 
" a feeble offensive value, and to engage it too soon would be to risk 
" disorganizing it." 

2 The Intelligence map shows the II. on the Ourcq and the IV. north 
of the Marne, between Chateau Thierry and Charly (7 miles south-west of 
Chateau Thierry). The divisions of the latter corps really crossed the 
Marne on either side of La Fert6 sous Jouarre, and on the 7th were in 
action in the battle of the Ourcq. 

* It is again recalled that these cavalry corps included eight infantry 
(Jdger) battalions besides cycUst companies and machine-gun companies. 
(See Appendix 7.) 


Morin during a change of dispositions. The bridges over the 
Maine from Trilport (just above Meaux) to Trilbardou 
(below Meaux) and one at La Ferte sous Jouarre were 
reported destroyed, and the congestion at the remaining 
bridge at La Ferte was such as to offer good results from a 
rapid advance towards that point. It was also reported, 
however, that a considerable force of the enemy lay at 
Pierre Levee (5 miles south-west of the bridge) to guard 
against any such attempt.^ Indeed, the left of the British 
III. Corps had not been allowed to take up its position 
between Maisoncelles and La Haute Maison, some two or 
three miles only from Pierre Levee, without being shelled. 
The 8th September, therefore, promised to be an important 

General Joffre's Instruction No. 7, issued at 3.45 p.m. 
on the 7th September, directed the Armies on the left to 
follow the enemy with the bulk of their forces, but in such 
a manner as always to retain the possibility of enveloping 
the German right wing. For this purpose, the French 
Sixth Army was to gain ground gradually towards the north 
on the right bank of the Ourcq ; the British forces were to 
endeavour to get a footing " in succession (sic) across the 
" Petit Morin, the Grand Morin and the Marne " ; the 
Fifth Army was to accentuate the movement of its left wing, 
and with its right support the Ninth Army. The road 
Sablonnieres — Nogent I'Artaud — Chateau Thierry, allotted 
to the British, was made the boundary between them and 
the Fifth Army. 

Accordingly, on the evening of the 7th September, the 
Field-Marshal issued orders ^ for the advance to be con- 
tinued against the line of the Marne from Nogent I'Artaud 
to La Ferte sous Jouarre : the cavalry to push on in pur- 
suit, keeping touch with the French Fifth Army on the 
right, and with the Sixth Army on the left. The Grand 
Morin was already behind the British, but before the Marne 
could be reached, the Petit Morin had to be crossed : a 
canal-like stream, twenty feet wide, running through a 
narrow valley, with steep, wooded sides, approachable only 
through close, intricate country, studded with innumerable 
copses, villages and hamlets, and with only six bridges in 
the sector in question. The Marne itself, from seventy to 
eighty yards wide with many windings, runs through a 
deeper, but wider and more open valley, so that from 

^ Four Jdger battalions and a cavalry brigade, according to Ktihl's 
" Marne," p. 207. 2 Appendix 37. 


either side the heights on the other appear to be command- 7 Sept. 
ing ; most of the bridges had been destroyed by the AUies ^^^*- 
during the retreat, and any repairs which had been done 
by the Germans would no doubt be demohshed. Thus the 
ground was all in favour of the enemy's rear guards. 

The French on the 7th September ^ 

The summary of the operations of the Sixth Army on the Ourcq Sketch 15. 
is as follows : — Maps 25 

" The success of the operations of the Sixth Army on the 7th & 27. 
" September depended on the entry into line, on the left of the Army, 
" of the 61st Division and Sordet's cavalry corps ; for on the right 
" the 5th Group of Reserve Divisions (General Lamaze) was held up 
" by the enemy ; its commander even began to consider the eventu- 
" ality of a retirement and had organized a position behind his front. 
" The 61st Division and the cavalry corps came into the line towards 
" midday, but could make no progress against an enemy also re- 
" inforced ; they even drifted back in the evening on Nanteuil les 
" Haudouin." 

The 8th Division, which, with a provisional cavalry brigade 
under Colonel Brantes, formed from the 5th Cavalry Division, 
was to fill the gap between the Sixth Army and the British, reached 
Chessy (6 miles south-west of Meaux) about 5 a.m., the cavalry ar- 
riving at 6.40 A.M. On receiving orders from General Maunoury to 
act offensively in co-operation with the B.E.F., the commander of 
the 8th Division, General de Lartigue, replied that his division " was 
" in a state of extreme fatigue, as a result of the presence in its ranks 
" of too great a number of reservists without cadres and without 
" training, who had been sent to replace the casualties suffered in 
" Belgium and on the Meuse." ^ He gave his men a long rest until 
1 P.M., after which they made a short advance. As this division 
took no part in the fighting, was in fact incapable of fighting, and 
was withdrawn at 2.30 p.m. on the 9th to join Maunoury's Army on 
the Ourcq, no further mention of it will be made, or of the pro- 
visional cavalry brigade, which did not obtain touch of the enemj^. 

In the Fifth Army, General Franchet d'Esperey, between 7 and 

^ Summarized from the French Official Account. 

^ According to Commandant Grasset, in " Virton," pp. 178-9, the losses 
of the four infantry regiments of the 8th Division, then in the Third Army, 
in the battle of Virton on the 23rd August, had been : 

130th : all the field officers and nearly all the other officers ; the debris 

formed a weak battalion ; 
124th : the 3 battalion commanders and 770 other ranks ; it had 

hardly any officers left ; 
115th : one battalion was reduced to two companies and its commander 

killed ; 
117th : a battalion commander and 725 officers and men lost. 

On the 30th-31st August, the division was engaged in the " combats vers 
" Mont devant Sassy " and " Villers devant Dun," in defence of the 
passages of the Meuse ; but its losses there have not been published. It 
was then drawn into reserve and was thus available to be transferred by 
rail to the Sixth Army. 


9 A.M., heard from his aviators that on his front numerous German 
columns were retreating northwards, leaving only weak detachments 
behind. "Between 10 and 11 a.m. the British Air Force reported, 
" the message being telephoned from G.H.Q. to the Sixth and Fifth 
*' Armies, that all the German Army facing the Fifth Army was in 
*' retreat northward." This was the case. 

At 8 A.M. General Joffre by telephone told General Franchet 
d'Esperey that " it would be of utility if he made the left of the Fifth 
" Army get up level with the British right." The latter duly in- 
formed the XVIII. Corps of the Commander-in-Chief's wishes, and 
all his corps of the reported retreat of the Germans. Nevertheless, 
their progress was very slow, being " hampered at least by rear 
" guards. . . . Towards the end of the morning these rear guards 
" slipped off . . . the march was resumed," again with great precau- 
tion ; for General d'Esperey in instructions issued at 10 a.m. had 
" insisted on the necessity of acting methodically and, in particular, 
" of co-ordinating efforts." In view of German counter-attacks, 
which, he said, he considered possible at the end of the afternoon, he 
ordered " every position taken to be solidly organized immediately ; 
" this operation performed, the movement ahead will not be re- 
" sumed, until aid has been given, by every means, to facilitate the 
" progress of neighbouring corps." ^ The commander of the Fifth 
Army thereupon called on General Foch to cover his right during 
the attack on Montmirail. On this flank the X. Corps had only had 
an artillery fight to stop an attack on Foch's 42nd Division, which 
was retiring ; d'Esperey had previously told the X. Corps that it 
was more important to support the left of the Ninth Army than to 
cut off the retreat of the Germans in front of the I. Corps from Mont- 
mirail. To the B.E.F., which had informed him that all the Germans 
in front of him were retiring, he telephoned at 10.15 a.m., " it is 
" extremely urgent that the British Army should act on the flank of 
" the retreating German columns." 

In the afternoon Conneau's cavalry, then well behind the British, 
being ordered to pursue, advanced without gaining contact with the 
enemy and halted on the Grand Morin at 6.30 p.m. The XVIII. and 
III. Corps got up to the Grand Morin, 5 miles from the great high- 
way, Sezanne — Sancy ; the 2nd Division of the I. and the X. Corps 
were abreast of them, the 1st Division alone pushing on somewhat 
further to within a couple of miles of Montmirail. The marches of 
the Fifth Army were accomplished without incident, except that 
between 5.30 and 6.30 p.m. one battery, on ahead with a cavalry 
regiment, fired on a German column marching on Montmirail, and 
was shelled in reply. " At 6.30 p.m. the detachment, judging its 
" mission terminated, went to its billets." 

The Ninth Army, except the 42nd Division, which was driven 
in a little, had practically a quiet day, for the Germans opposite 
were side-slipping eastward so as to get clear of the Marshes of 
St. Gond before attacking. The result was that Foch informed 
Franchet d'Esperey that the situation on his left, " without being 
" compromised, was serious. . . . Whereas the right was making 
*' progress against the enemy, who was drawing back." Neverthe- 

* He had forgotten the maxim : 
" II faut qu'il attaque, pousse et poursuive sans cesse. 
Toutes les mancEuvres sont bonnes alors, 11 n'y a que les sages qui 
ne valent rien." (Maurice Comte de Saxe.) 


less he reinforced his right with his last and only reserve, the 18th 7 Sept. 
Division. In his 3.45 p.m. order ^ General Joffre only required of the 1914. 
Ninth Army that it should " hold on, on the front it occupied, until 
" the arrival of the reserves of the Fourth Army on its right would 
" enable it to participate in the forward movement." 

The German Right Wing on the 7th September 

On the evening of the 6th September the liaison officer of the Sketch 15. 
First Army brought to General von Biilow at his headquarters at Maps 25 
Montmort (13 miles E.N.E. of Montmirail) a message from General ^ 27. 
von Kluck, taken down in a note book, confirming that the //. and 
IV. Corps had been moved to the Ourcq, and informing him that the 
gap left in the line by them was made secure by the /. and //. Cavalry 
Corps, ample for the purpose " as the repeatedly beaten British will 
" scarcely be quickly induced to come forward and make a powerful 
" offensive " : further, that the IX. Corps was placed under the 
Second Army to assist in the offensive against the French and that 
the ///. Corps was to cover its right flank ; it was added, however, 
that Kluck might require the III. Corps, and if Billow's VII. Corps 
could be used to cover the flank, so much the better, as the ///. would 
then be free. 

Biilow then proceeded to issue orders to the Second Army and 
to the IX. and ///. Corps for the continuation of the offensive ; 
but he had no sooner done so than, " after 11 p.m.," his liaison 
officer brought him a copy of Kluck's orders, issued at 9 p.m., direct- 
ing the IX. and ///. Corps to fall back during the night behind the 
Petit Morin, from west of Montmirail to Boitron (north of Rebais). 
Confronted with this sudden change, Biilow, at 1.25 a.m. on the 7th, 
decided to conform to it by directing that only his left (eastern) 
wing, the Guard and X. Corps, should carry out the offensive ; his 
centre, the X. Reserve Corps, which had crossed the Petit Morin, 
was to go back behind the river in line with the IX. and III., whilst 
the VII. would be to its right rear. Thus Biilow, instead of making 
the wheel to face Paris on his right as a pivot, set about making 
it on the centre point of his front. 

There was some confusion as a result of the two sets of orders, 
and consequent counter-orders, but the III. Corps marched off, the 
5th Division at 3 a.m. witiiout any interference, and the 6th some- 
what later, its rear guard shaking clear about 7 a.m., after a little 
firing " without loss and without the enemy infantry attempting to 
" follow." General von Quast of the IX. Corps, who seems to have 
obeyed Billow's orders in preference to Kluck's, did not hear that the 
attack had been cancelled until 5 a.m. ; but, under cover of artillery 
fire, his corps retired in broad daylight ; only the rear guards of the 
18th Division had a little fighting, and they also got clear by 8.45 a.m. 
Thus the Germans in front of Franchet d'Esperey's left swung back, 
and soon disappeared. 

During the morning of the 7th, Kluck, informed by O.H.L. 
that it had been learnt from a captured order (see below) that the 
French were making a general offensive, seems to have become 
thoroughly alarmed by the situation on the Ourcq. He sent the 

1 See page 312. 


following wireless messages to Biilow : At 10.10 a.m., "//., 7F. and 
" IV. Reserve Corps heavily engaged west of lower Ourcq. Where 
" are the III. and IX ? What is situation there ? Reply urgent" ; 
and at 11.15 a.m., "Participation oi III. and IX. Corps on Ourcq 
" most urgent. Enemy considerably reinforced. Send corps in 
" direction of La Ferte Milon and Crouy (6 miles S. by W. of La 
" Ferte Milon) " ; that is the two corps were to make a march north- 
westward of some thirty-five miles. Kluck also shifted his head- 
quarters from Charly on the Marne, where he had moved on the 6th 
from Rebais,to Vendrest eastof the Ourcq,behind the battle-front there. 

Biilow passed on the First Army order to the ///. Corps, but, 
in view of the danger to his right flank and the increase in the gap 
occasioned by Kluck's withdrawal of the remaining troops of the 
First Army, he directed the IX. Corps, which he conceived to be still 
at his disposal, to wheel back behind the DoUoir (a stream which 
Hows a little west of north into the Marne about 5 miles below Chateau 
Thierry), and his VII. Corps to fill the space between the IX. and 
X. Reserve, whose right held Montmirail. 

After its fifteen-mile march to the Petit Morin, the ///. Corps was 
resting behind the river, when, at 4 p.m., it received Kluck's con- 
firmatory order to march to the Ourcq. It resumed its retirement at 
5 P.M., and the 5th Division reached La Ferte sous Jouarre " late at 
" night," and the 6th, Charly " about 11 p.m." It was nearly mid- 
night, too, when the IX. Corps reached its position behind the DoUoir, 
and General von Quast received notification that he was again under 
the orders of the First Army, and instructions to march to its right 
flank without delay. He decided to continue the march after a short 
rest. Both the ///. and IX. Corps resumed their march north- 
westward at 1 a.m. on the 8th. 

The two cavalry corps, in the gap between the First and Second 
Armies, had also fallen back. Generals von Richthofen and von der 
jNIarwitz acting independently, no commander for both corps or for 
the troops in the gap ever being appointed. The /. Cavalry Corps, 
which had been covering the flank of the ///. Corps, fell back with 
that corps before daylight, and, after some skirmishes with the British 
already mentioned, pursued also for a time by artillery fire, took 
position behind the Petit Morin around Orly, in front of the British 
right. Thus between Montmirail and Orly, some sixteen miles, 
opposite the French Fifth Army, there were no Germans whatever 
except the retiring IX. and ///. Corps and /. Cavalry Corps. 

The //. Cavalry Corps, which spent the night around Coulom- 
miers, also retired before daylight, its 9th Division being summoned 
to the Ourcq, whilst the 2nd, and the four Jdger battahons and 
infantry battalion with it, fell back on Pierre Levee just south of 
La Ferte sous Jouarre, where they were seen and fired on, as already 
noticed. At night, all except one cavalry brigade, the Jdger, the 
horse artillery and machine-gun troop, were sent north of the Marne. 

On the Ourcq during the 7th the German situation had certainly 
given cause for anxiety, and at night both the right and left flanks 
of the First Army were swung back, the 7th Division on the right 
retiring a couple of miles, leaving its wounded behind, in order to 
avoid envelopment. 

On Billow's left wing, arovmd the Marshes of St. Gond, in spite 
of his order for attack, action was confined to artillery fire and nothing 
of importance happened owing to the difiiculties of the terrain, the 


Guard Corps taking ground to the east in order to get clear of the 7 Sept. 
marshes. 1914. 

No orders of any kind were issued by the Supreme Command 
either on the Gth or the 7th. On the evening of the 6th, the Fourth 
Army transmitted to it over the telephone ^ the text of General 
Joffre's Order of the Day issued on the morning of the 6th at 9 a.m., 
a copy of which had been found in the afternoon by the 30th 
Brigade at Frignicourt (immediately south of Vitry le Francois). 
This important news was at once communicated to the Armies, 
where it seems to have had the same depressing effect as at O.H.L. 
Moltke was confirmed in his view that a dreadful mistake had been 
made in believing that the French had been beaten : " the foe had 
*' obviously retired according to plan and during the retreat had 
" regrouped his forces. . . . His plan of battle seemed clear. Whilst 
" his front brought the German pursuit to a stop between Marne and 
" Seine, carefully concealed offensives from Paris and Verdun against 
" the momentarily unprotected German flanks would bring about the 
" decision," (G.O.A., iv. p. 137.) Would the German troops, worn 
out by the superhuman efforts of the past week, their ranks reduced 
about 50 per cent by march and battle casualties, stand the shock. 
" The strategic plans and hopes of the Chief of the General Staff 
" seemed suddenly to collapse." The news from the Armies which 
came in during the night and early morning were disquieting and 
brought no relief : three corps of the First Army were fighting on 
the Ourcq against the enemy from Paris, and Kluck judged that he 
must bring the III. and IX. Corps there ; the Second Army spoke of 
the gap in the line, and clamoured that the ///. and IX. Corps should 
be left to guard its flank ; the Third Army, which ought to have 
thrust itself into a gap in the French front opposite it, had divided 
itself into two to help its neighbours, both of whom were calling for 
help. Little definite news came from Armies during the day ; the 
evening reports of the Fourth and Fifth brought nothing new, only 
that fighting was continuing with undiminished violence without a 
decision anywhere ; the Sixth and Seventh Armies were at a dead- 
lock ; good news came only from Hindenburg, who was chasing 
Rennenkampf's Army back into Russia in the Battle of the Masurian 
Lakes, begun on the 5th. Moltke had no troops in reserve : the XV. 
Corps of the Seventh Army had been ordered round from Lorraine 
to Belgium on the 5th, but could not reach the front for several days.* 
He seems to have thought of shifting the Supreme Command Head- 
quarters nearer to the battle, but he did nothing, did not send even 
an inspiriting message. The Kaiser, who returned that evening, dis- 
appointed of his triumphal entry into Reims, on being informed of 
the situation, could, according to the statement of his personal staff, 
only suggest, " attack as long as we can — in no circumstances a step 
" backwards." 

^ O.H.L. was connected to the four Armies of the left wing by telephone, 
to the Third, Second and First Armies by wireless only. There was gra\e 
delay in the transmission of wireless messages, due to there being only one 
receiving station at O.H.L., and to interruptions by weather and by the 
French field stations, owing to the bluntness of the tuning curve. They 
arrived so mutilated that they had to be repeated three or four times before 
they could be read. (Kuhl's " Marne," p. 28.) 

2 Moltke had asked for a corps each from the Sixth and Seventh Armies, 
but Crown Prince Rupprecht could only spare one. The XV. Corps arrived 
on the Aisne on 14th September. 



8th September : The Forcing of the Petit Morin 
(Sketches B, 13 & 16 ; Maps 4, 25 & 28) 

Sketch 13. The Cavalry moved off at 4 a.m., covering the front of 

25T2*8 ^^^ ^' ^^^ ^^' ^o^PS- ^^ t^^ Cavalry Division, the 1st and 
2nd Brigades made for the line of the Petit Morin from 
Bellot (due north of La Ferte Gaucher) westward to La 
Tretoire, with the 4th Cavalry Brigade in support. Cough's 
5th and 3rd Cavalry Brigades on its left headed for the river 
from La Tretoire to St. Cyr. The 5th Dragoon CTuards, at 
the head of the Cavalry Division, moved by La Ferte 
Gaucher on Sablonnieres, and the 4th Dragoon Guards on 
the wooden bridge at La Forge, 2,000 yards lower down. 
Driving scattered parties of German horsemen before them, 
they plunged down into the wooded valley of the Petit Morin. 
The two bridges at Sablonnieres were reported to be lightly 
held, but a direct advance upon them was found to be 
impossible owing to the enemy's rifle fire ; an attempt to 
turn the position from the east by way of Bellot was also 
checked. At the La Forge bridge, to which the approach 
lay over a railway bridge, a troop of the 4th Dragoon 
Guards tried to carry both by a rush, and secured the first, 
but were foiled at the river bridge which was barricaded. 
On their left, 3 miles further westward, a reconnoitring 
party of the Greys discovered just south of the river, near 
Gibraltar (l^ miles S.S.W. of Orly), half a battalion of 
Jdger and a cavalry brigade comfortably eating their break- 
fasts. Stealing back unperceived they were able to indicate 
this target to a section of J Battery at Boisbaudry, which 
broke up the picnic abruptly with shrapnel, and sent the 
enemy fleeing across the valley with considerable loss. 
German artillery, however, forbade any further advance 
of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, and the 5th was likewise 



brought to a standstill. On their left, the 5th Lancers of 8 Sept. 
the 3rd Cavalry Brigade penetrated into St. Cyr, and D ^^i"*- 
Battery did some execution among the Germans retreating 
before them. But very soon the enemy counter-attacked, 
drove the 5th Lancers out of St. Cyr, and stopped further 
progress by a heavy cross-fire of artillery from the high 
ground above Orly (opposite Gibraltar). D and E Bat- 
teries, being in an exposed position, were for the time out 
of action, for their teams could not come up to shift them 
and the detachments were obliged to leave their guns and 
take cover. By about 8.30 a.m. the whole of the British 
cavalry was at a standstill, the hostile rear guards being 
too strong and too well posted to be dislodged from the line 
of the Petit Morin until further forces arrived. 

On the extreme left, infantry of the 4th Division ascer- 
tained between 3 and 4 a.m. that the enemy had evacuated 
Pierre Levee, which defended the approaches to La Ferte 
sous Jouarre ; so at 6 a.m. the 12th and 19th Brigades 
advanced, the former against Jouarre, the latter on its left 
against Signy Signets. Aerial reconnaissances about this 
hour reported a great number of the enemy massed about 
La Ferte sous Jouarre, waiting their turn to cross the river, 
whilst the passage of infantry over the bridge was unceas- 
ing.^ But the movement of the British was necessarily 
slow, for there were many copses and coverts to be cleared 
in front, and a large belt of wood — the Bois de Jouarre — on 
the right flank. No serious opposition however was en- 
countered until about 11 a.m., when the leading battalion 
of the 19th Brigade had passed beyond Signy Signets and 
reached the ridge overlooking the Marne, where it was 
caught by artillery fire from the heights just north-west 
of La Ferte sous Jouarre. No great damage was done, and 
the German guns were soon silenced by two batteries of 
the XXIX. Brigade R.F.A. But the brushing away of the 
enemy's advanced troops revealed the German main body 
holding the north bank of the Marne in strength, with a 
bridgehead, well provided with machine guns, at La Ferte 
sous Jouarre.^ It was thus evident that the passage of 

1 The whole of the 5th Division passed through La Ferte sous Jouarre 
on the 8th. 

^ La Ferte was defended by the 2nd Cavalry Division, the 5th was at 
Orly and the Guard at Boitron. The 9ih was at the battle of the Ourcq, 
but returned in the evening to defend the Marne below La Ferte. With 
the 5th Cavalry Division were four Jdger battalions, with each of the 
others, one. Each division had a machine-gun troop (6 guns) and each 
Jdger battalion a macliinc-gun company (6 guns). Each cavalry corps 
had formed a cyclist battalion. G.O.A., iv. p. 178, speaks of there being 


the Marne would not be easily forced ; and there was 
nothing for the moment to be done but to bring the artillery 
forward to knock out the machine guns, and to seek a way 
round. This was exasperating, for heavy columns of the 
enemy were still crossing the river at La Ferte, and masses 
of troops were in sight on the slopes of the northern bank 
ranged like a gigantic amphitheatre around the town, but 
out of range. 

On the right of the Force, shortly before 9 a.m., the 
advanced guard of the 1st (Guards) Brigade (the 1/Black 
Watch and the 117th Battery R.F.A.) reached the edge 
of the plateau above Bellot, and passed down a narrow 
defile into the valley of the Petit Morin, German shrapnel 
bursting over their heads as they marched. The 118th and 
119th Batteries unlimbered near the crest of the hill, and 
soon silenced the German guns. By 9.30 a.m. the Black 
Watch reached Bellot, where they found French cavalry in 
possession but unable to advance, although the bridge was 
intact ; pushing through the village, they crossed the river 
and entered the woods on its north side. They then turned 
westward upon Sablonnieres to facilitate the crossing there, 
but were stubbornly opposed by dismounted cavalry and 
the Guard Jdger, until the Cameron Highlanders, with 
dismounted troopers of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, came to 
their assistance. The advent of the Camerons was decisive ; 
for soon after 1 p.m. the British were masters of Sablonnieres 
with over sixty German prisoners.* 

While this was going forward, the 2nd Division, next 
on the left, headed by the 4th (Guards) Brigade and the 
XXXVI. and XLI. Brigades R.F.A. , had come up to La 
Tretoire at the edge of the plateau overlooking the Petit 
Morin, and had been greeted, like the 1st Brigade, with 
continuous shrapnel fire from batteries on the heights 
opposite in the vicinity of Boitron. The British guns soon 
compelled the Germans to move ; but skilfully placed 
machine guns made the advance of infantry across the 
river valley a very difficult matter, and the vanguard (2 
companies of the 3rd Coldstream) tried in vain to make 
its way down to the water. The Irish Guards was sent 

an " infantry battalion " (now known to have been the II. Battahon of 
the 27th Regiment) at La Ferte. The retirement north of the Marne of the 
detachment near Jouarre was ordered by General von der Marwitz at 
9 A.M. (Poseck, p. 102). 

^ According to Vogel, the troops which defended Bellot and Sablon- 
niferes were the Garde-du-Korps and Garde-Kiirassier regiments and part 
of the Garde-Jdger battalion. 


to its help, but could make no progress ; the forward s Sept. 
elements of both battalions were therefore slightly with- 1914. 
drawn whilst the valley was further searched by artillery ; 
for which purpose, owing to the steepness of the sides of 
the valley at this point, the XLIV. Brigade R.F.A. came 
into action, also the 35th Heavy Battery, well away on 
the flank. ^ About noon the six companies of the Cold- 
stream and Irish Guards, urged on by Generals Haig and 
Monro, who were present, again advanced, whilst on their 
left the 2/Worcestershire, at the head of the 5th Brigade, 
moved down on Becherelle (1| miles N.N.W. of La Tretoire), 
east of which was a bridge ; and on their right the 2 /Grena- 
diers and 2/Coldstream on La Forge, where the 4th Dra- 
goon Guards had secured both bridges. This attack on a 
front of nearly a mile and a half was pushed successfully 
as far as the road which runs parallel with the Petit Morin 
on its southern bank. The Worcestershire then carried 
the bridge near Becherelle, capturing a few prisoners in the 
farm close to it ; and, with the approach of this battalion 
on his right flank and of the two battalions of Guards on 
his left, the enemy retired. Thus, before 2 p.m. the passage 
of the Petit Morin had been forced at the eastern extremity 
of the line, and the Cavalry Division was able to cross 
the valley and push northward. ^ The 2nd Cavalry Brigade 
pursued the hostile guns a short distance, taking some 
prisoners and inflicting appreciable losses ; whilst the 4th 
Cavalry Brigade, relieving it at 3.30 p.m., struck the flank 
of a German column seen on its left retiring northward 
from Orly and did some execution with its guns. 

The I. Corps was now free to send help further to the 
west ; and not before it was needed. The 8th Brigade ^ 
had come up to the support of the 5th Cavalry Brigade 
about Gibraltar between 9 and 10 a.m., but could make 
no progress. The enemy was entrenched on the slopes 
on the north side of the Petit Morin about half a mile 
west of Orly, and his machine guns were so cunningly 

^ A single gun of the 10th Battery, XLI. Brigade, which had been sent 
forward in close support of the infantry, got a direct hit on and destroyed 
a German horse artillery gun and team, which were galloping for the safety 
of a reverse slope. 

^ In consequence of the renewal of the attack, the commander of the 
German I. Cavalry Corps " found himself obliged at 12.45 p.m. to order 
" a retirement. . . . The greater part of the 5tfi Cavalry Division had 
" already withdrawn." (" Das Marnedrama 1914," ii.) 

^ Only about two thousand strong in spite of " first reinforcements," as 
a result of the heavy losses of the 2/KoyaI Irish and 4/Middlesex at Mons, 
and of the l/Gordons at Le Cateau. 

VOL. I y 


hidden that field guns could not find them. It was noon 
before howitzers could be brought up, but even then the 
machine guns could not be located, and they rendered a 
frontal attack impossible. Further west the 13th Brigade 
and the 121st Battery had joined the 3rd Cavalry Brigade 
between 8 and 9 a.m. ; and two battalions were deployed 
for attack on St. Cyr. But the fire from the enemy's con- 
cealed batteries was exceedingly trying, and little or no 
progress was made. Soon after 9 a.m., therefore, the 14th 
Brigade, which was halted at Doue, was sent forward 
to the attack of St. Ouen, a mile east of St. Cyr. The 
Duke of Cornwall's L.I. and the East Surrey led the way, 
advancing in open formation for two miles under shrapnel 
fire till they reached the valley, and plunged into the 
dense wood which shrouded the descent to the river. So 
steep was the declivity and so thickly tangled the under- 
growth, that the Cornishmen, though little opposed, were 
obliged to work down to the water man by man and re- 
form by the railway at the foot of the slope. They found 
before them two seemingly impassable streams, traversed 
by a single continuous bridge which w^as swept by two 
machine guns on the ridge beyond. After a time, however, 
an undefended footbridge was found over one stream, also 
a boat, and a ford through the other. Thus two com- 
panies of the D. C.L.I, were able gradually to effect a pass- 
age. By this time Lieut. -Colonel J. R. Longley of the 
East Surrey had received a message from the brigade 
headquarters giving the position of the enemy trenches, 
and by arrangement his battalion crossed next. Pushing 
on, the East Surrey attacked the Germans in flank and 
turned them out, whilst the Duke of Cornwall's cleared St. 
Ouen and occupied St. Cyr, the 5th Division cyclists going 
through them, right-handed towards Bussieres. 

It was now nearly 3 p.m. The river had been crossed 
on both sides of Orly (2| miles east of St. Cyr), and the 
enemy's situation at that place became perilous.^ In the 
2nd Division, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire L.I. 
and the Connaught Rangers of the 5th Brigade turned 
westward from Becherelle after they had crossed the 
Petit Morin, and approached Orly from the east. The 
4th (Guards) Brigade had pushed on 3 miles from the river 
to the cross roads about Belle Idee on the Montmirail — 
La Ferte sous Jouarre main road, almost behind the 

1 The order to retire had not reached the 11th Cavalry Brigade and 
Guard SchiUzen engaged there. (G.O.A., iv. p. 179.) 


German position. The 60th Howitzer Battery now began 8 Sept. 
to search the woods with high-explosive shell, with the ^^^■*- 
result that German cavalry and infantry soon emerged 
from their cover within close range of the Guards at La 
Belle Idee and were heavily punished ; the few who re- 
mained in the woods were enveloped by the 2/Coldstream 
and Irish Guards and shot down or captured.^ Such 
fugitives as made their escape were pursued so vigorously 
by the shells of the British guns that the infantry could not 
follow up its success. Meanwhile the 8th Brigade began 
again to press upon Orly itself from the south, and 
the 9th Brigade did so from the east ; about 4 p.m. the 
village was captured and one hundred and fifty prisoners ^ 
with it. Simultaneously, the Cyclist Company of the 5th 
Division reached the main road. La Ferte sous Jouarre — 
Montmirail, 3 miles west of the point where the 4th (Guards) 
Brigade had struck it, and came upon the flank of two 
hundred German Guard Schutzen, and after five minutes' 
fighting compelled them to lay down their arms. Unfor- 
tunately, a battery of the 3rd Division which had been 
pushed forward to north of Orly, peppered both captors and 
captured so energetically with shrapnel that all but seventy 
of the prisoners were able to escape. Both divisions how- 
ever of the II. Corps pressed northward from Orly and 
St. Ouen as soon as they could, and by dusk the head 
of the 3rd Division was at Les Feucheres (1|- miles east of 
Rougeville), and the head of the 5th Division at Rouge- 
ville, where they were within less than a mile of the Marne. 
The reaction of these operations on the right made 
itself felt about La Ferte sous Jouarre between 3 and 4 p.m. 
The guns of the 4th Division had come up about noon, and 
had shelled the bridges at La Ferte and the ground in front 
of Jouarre very heavily.^ The 108th Heavy Battery of 
the 5th Division, unlimbering at Done (4| miles S.S.E. of 
Jouarre) and firing by the map, silenced one troublesome 
battery near Jouarre and another some distance further 
east. At 1 P.M. the German fire ceased opposite to the 4th 
Division ; and soon after 2 p.m. orders were issued for the 
11th and 19th Brigades to advance on the bridge at La 
Ferte over the Petit Morin, and for the 12th Brigade to 
move upon that of Courcelles about a mile and a half to 

1 The guns and some men of the Guard Machine-Gun Abteilung (with 
the Guard Cavalry Division) were captured. 

" Guard Schutzen and men of the 11th Cavalry Brigade. 

^ La Ferte sous Jouarre Hes in the valley, on the Marne ; Jouarre is 
on the heights above it, on the south side of the valley. 


the eastward. Courcelles was quickly evacuated by the 
enemy at the approach of the 2/Essex and 2/Inniskining 
Fusihers, who thereupon moved on to La Ferte, where 
both bridges were found to have been blown up. These 
battalions were joined there by the King's Own, who had 
already cleared Jouarre, and by some of the Welch Fusiliers. 
The Germans firing from the houses made some show of 
resistance, but by dark the portion of the town that lies 
south of the Marne had been cleared of the enemy and was 
in full occupation of the British. 

The day's operations now practically came to an end. 
Troops of the I. Corps did indeed advance as far as Basse- 
velle, midway between the Petit Morin and the Marne ; 
but at 6 P.M. a very sultry day ended in a violent thunder- 
storm with such torrents of rain as made it difficult either 
to see or to move. Nearly the whole of the 8th had been 
spent in forcing the passage of the Petit Morin. The 
ground was ideally suited to a rear-guard action, and the 
enemy's positions were well chosen, and most skilfully and 
gallantly defended. The total loss of the British was under 
six hundred killed and wounded, against which were to be 
set some five hundred Germans captured, at least the same 
number killed and wounded, and about a dozen machine 
guns taken in the trenches by the river.^ 
Sketches The troops halted for the night in the following posi- 

B & 13. tions, all south of the Marne : — 
Maps 25 ' 

^ ^^' Cavalry Division . . . Replonges. 

I. Corps .... Bassevelle, Hondevillers (2| 

miles south of last named), 

II. Corps Les Feucheres, Rougeville, 

Charnesseuil (1| miles west 
of Bussieres), Orly. 

III. Corps Grand Glairet (1 mile west of 

3rd Cavalry Brigade Jouarre), Venteuil Chateau 

(1 mile south of La Ferte 

sous Jouarre), Signy Signets. 

5th Cavalry Brigade . . Between Gibraltar and Rebais. 

The air reports of the day referred, except for the 
passage of many troops through La Ferte, almost entirely 
to small enemy columns, and to the positions of the British 

^ Vogel speaks of " the celebrated heavy-in-losses and important fight 
" at Orly." The Guard and 5th Cavalry Divisions were engaged ; " many 
" of the companies of the Guard Jdger and Schiitzen came out of action with 
" only 45 men." 


and of the French Armies on either side of them. The 8 Sept. 
Hnes of march of the German IX. and ///. Corps were i^^'*- 
beyond the areas reconnoitred except those of the 5th 
Division through La Ferte, and of a large detachment of 
the IX. Corps, which, as we shall see, had been diverted 
to the British front, which were duly reported. The 
French stated that the ///. Corps (or the IX.) was still on 
the Fifth Army front next to the VII. Corps — where the 
IX. Corps had been on the night of the 7th/8th. Thus the 
general situation of the German forces near the British 
was summed up by the Intelligence Section as follows : the 
two divisions of the /. Cavalry Corps had fought on the 
Petit Morin and had retired northwards ; the ///. Corps 
on Fifth Army front ; the IX. Corps north of the Marne, 
part (actually a quarter) near Montreuil aux Lions (6 
miles N.N.E. of La Ferte), part (actually the 5th Division) 
near Cocherel (5 miles N, by W. of La Ferte) and part 
(actually the tail of the 18th Division) near Chezy (5 miles 
south of Chateau Thierry) ; and the IV. Corps was thought 
to be divided, part being on the Ourcq, and part on the 
northern bank of the Marne near Nanteuil (what was seen 
must have been either the tail of the 6th Division or the 
retiring 5th Cavalry Division). Thus it appeared that the 
greater part of the IV. and IX. Corps (actually only one 
division and one mixed brigade, and that division under 
orders to continue its movement to the Ourcq) was opposite 
the British on the north bank of the Marne, quite enough 
to make Sir John French feel cautious when forcing the 
passage of a wide river. 

The news that came in at nightfall from the French Maps 4 
Armies on the right and left was less satisfactory than on ^ ^^' 
the 7th. To the eastward the French Fifth Army was said to 
have made good progress, encountering no very serious op- 
position ; on its extreme left Conneau's cavalry corps, how- 
ever, was five miles behind Haig's corps. Next to it the 
XVIII. Corps had crossed the Petit Morin to L'^fipine aux 
Bois (4 miles west of Montmirail), and the rest of the Army 
was extended from Montmirail eastward to Champaubert, 
beyond which General Foch's Ninth Army stretched from 
St. Prix (3 miles south of Champaubert) to La Fere Cham- 
penoise. To the westward, the Germans, having been 
strongly reinforced by the troops withdrawn by Kluck 
from the south, were offering a determined resistance to 
the French on the Ourcq, and General Maunoury, in spite 
of all efforts, had failed to gain ground. Indeed, his centre 


had actually been forced back, and he had been obliged to 
recall the French 8th Division, which should have linked his 
right to the British Army, from the east to the west bank 
of the Ourcq. From this information it became evident 
that the quicker the advance of the British upon the left 
flank and rear of Kluck, the speedier would be General 
Maunoury's deliverance, and the more telling the damage 
inflicted upon the Germans. 

Instruction No. 19, issued by General Joffre at 8.7 p.m. 
on the 8th September, drew attention to the fact that the 
right wing of the German Army was now divided into two 
groups, connected only by some cavalry divisions, sup- 
ported, in front of the British troops, by detachments of 
all arms. It was therefore important to defeat the Ger- 
man extreme right before it could be reinforced by other 
formations released by the fall of Maubeuge. This task 
was confided to the Sixth Army and the British. The 
Sixth Army was to hold the troops opposing it on the right 
bank of the Ourcq, whilst the British forces crossing the 
Marne between Nogent I'Artaud and La Ferte sous Jouarre 
were to advance against the left and rear of the enemy on 
the Ourcq ; the Fifth Army was to cover the right flank of 
the British Army by sending a strong detachment against 
Chateau Thierry — Azy, which, as will be seen, it failed to do. 

The French on the 8th September^ 

Maps 25 The Sixth Army on the Ourcq remained stationary on the 8th 
& 28. September. Its left was prolonged by the arrival of the IV. Corps 
(7th Division and 61st Reserve Division) ; General Bridoux, who 
had superseded General Sordet in command of the cavalry corps, 
despatched a (5th) provisional division, under General Cornulier- 
Luciniere, on a raid round the rear of the German First Army. " As 
" each of the other formations of the Army waited before moving 
" for the advance of the formation on its left, the Army as a whole 
" maintained the positions it occupied and entrenched them." 

The Fifth Army closed up to, and on the left, crossed the Petit 
Morin. The orders for the 8th deflected its advance from north- 
south to " slightly north-north-east " so as to give support to the 
Ninth Army. They said that, in view of the large enemy forces 
reported north of Montmirail, resistance was to be expected on the 
Petit Morin, and measures were to be taken accordingly : the X. 
Corps was not to cross the Montmirail — Champaubert road without 
further orders, its business being to outflank, in co-operation with 
the 42nd Division (Ninth Army), the Germans attacking the left of 
the Ninth Army. The XVIII. Corps was to start at 6 a.m., other 
formations at 7 a.m. 

^ Summarized from the French Official Account. 


The two left divisions, the 4th and 8th, of Conneau's cavalry 8 Sept. 
corps, found the Germans holding the Petit Morin, and halted, " but 1914. 
" the entry into action of a British infantry brigade about 11 a.m., 
" at Bellot, where it crossed, drove the enemy detachment away, 
" and brought about the abandonment of the heights." The 10th 
Cavalry Division met with no opposition on the Petit Morin. The 
three divisions, after watering horses, advanced a short distance. 
General Conneau heard from air reports that many German columns 
were retreating across the Marne ; but as soon as his three divisions 
got abreast of Vieils Maisons about 5 p.m., they were ordered, as at 
manoeuvres, to return to the Petit Morin to bivouac. It so happened 
that they slept under the protection of the British 1st Cavalry 
Division, which that night pushed the 11th Hussars up to the 

The XVIII. Corps advanced in four columns at 8 a.m., two hours 
late, and then the right column was delayed by the left column of 
the III. Corps being on the same road. The movement was covered 
by advanced guards, " forming detachments of pursuit." By 10.30 
A.M., after the Grand Morin had been passed without opposition. 
General Maud'huy came to the conclusion that there were no 
Germans between the two Morins, and, north of the Petit Morin, 
none in front of his left, the 36th Division ; but, from information 
given by the III. Corps, there were some batteries on the west of 
Montmirail ahead of the 35th Division. He therefore ordered that 
" the positions which might be occupied north of the Petit Morin 
" should be approached with precaution, and that they should not 
" be attacked without reconnaissance and until after a vigorous 
" artillery preparation ; above all, he recommended waiting the 
" effect of flank attacks executed by any troops which might have 
" already crossed the stream." 

The advanced guard of the 35th Division, " very late in conse- 
" quence of the block on the road," on approaching the Petit Morin 
about 3 P.M., came under gun fire for a short time, although the 
divisional squadron and infantry detachments had reached the 
bridges and sent reconnoitring parties on to the heights on the north 
bank. The main body of the leading brigade crossed the river a little 
before 5 p.m. and bivouacked on the heights about half a mile from 
the river at 8 p.m. The 36th Division crossed the Petit Morin without 
any opposition ; there appeared to be nothing in front of it, " but 
" before pushing ahead General Jouannic waited [apparently from 
" 12 noon to 2.15 p.m.] to make sure there was nothing on his left." 
Germans were then discovered in the woods ahead, who stopped 
further progress until night, when both regiments of the leading 
brigade made a night advance and reached the Montmirail — Vieils 
Maisons road and bivouacked north of and in front of the 35th Divi- 
sion. The 38th Division halted for the night in rear of the 35th. 

The III. Corps did very little ; the two leading divisions advanced 
about six miles to within two miles of Montmirail, where the aviators 
reported " a lot of artillery, but little infantry, with the main bodies 
" in retreat on Chateau Thierry." The divisions dug in there about 
3 P.M., it being General Hache's intention " to form a barrier south 
" of Montmirail to attract the enemy's artillery and thus permit the 
" XVIII. Corps to cross the Petit Morin." In this position the 
corps remained until 7 p.m., when the bivouac orders necessitated 
a slight forward movement. The 6th Division billeted in rear of 


the 5th and 37th, with the Group of Reserve Divisions behind it 

The I. Corps also did Httle during the day, the 1st Division ad- 
vancing two miles eastward, and the 2nd, three miles north-east- 
ward. It waited until noon for the III. Corps to come abreast of it 
and attack Montmirail, and at that hour was ordered by the Army 
to cross the Petit Morin. It moved about an hour later, and was 
almost at once held up by fire from the villages on the stream. 

Finding his corps stationary, General Deligny called for help 
from his neighbours, which they apparently did not give. No 
further progress was made except to get a footing in two of the 
villages. The corps therefore bivouacked south of the Petit Morin, 
and its commander in his evening report blamed the corps on his 
right and left for not giving assistance, and stated that his troops 
were very tired and would probably be more tired after another night 
in bivouac. 

In the X. Corps, at Foch's repeated requests for help by a flank- 
ing attack, the 51st Division was used in defence to assist the left 
of the Ninth Army, and the 19th and 20th Divisions, after swinging 
to the north-east a short distance, dug in. 

The Ninth Army had a disastrous day. Foch overnight had 
issued only a preparatory order for the troops "to be under arms 
" at 5 A.M. ready to resume the offensive," but not until 3 a.m. on 
the 8th did he send out an instruction directing reconnaissances to 
be made " to determine the points still occupied by the enemy." 
Before this could have reached the troops the Germans, by a dawn 
attack (4.15 a.m.), drove back Foch's right wing. Its retreat, 
besides increasing the gap between the Fourth and Ninth Armies, 
which the XXI. Corps was moving up to fill, involved the retirement 
of the centre from the southern exits of the Marshes of St. Gond, 
which it had been ordered to guard. 

Foch's opinion in the evening was that " the vigorous offensive 
" which my Army has had to withstand for two days had the purpose 
" of concealing the true design of the enemy, and had no other object 
" except to cover the retreat of the German right wing (First Army 
" and part of the Second), which since the 7th September has been 
" retiring in the direction of the Marne." He therefore at 9 p.m. 
ordered the IX. and XI. Corps to attack towards Champaubert, 
secure the higher ground beyond it and dig in. At the same time 
he begged the Fifth Army to take over the ground held by his 42nd 
Division so as to free it as a reserve. General Franchet d'Esperey 
not only agreed to do this, but for the purpose placed the X. Corps 
(2 divisions) at his disposal. Steady progress north-west by the 
whole Fifth Army would probably have given the Ninth Army more 
effective assistance. And the loan of the X. Corps was to be followed 
by the diversion of the I. and III. Corps eastwards to help Foch. 


The German Right Wing on the 8th September 

Maps 25 At 6 A.M. on the 8th General von Kluck -received a report from his 

& 28. left centre that a break-through was threatening near Trocy, and an 

urgent request for assistance via Lizy. He had no reserve except 


Sketch 16. 






^ I-i 





^ O^C 


'l^ ^ 



-1 K 




— 1 p 







■^ a 



=^ t? 


•J s^ 

l>, - 



-H - 



1. ^ 



'^■^ T. 


"tr* 'i 








4 s 



the III. and IX. Corps, then crossing the Marne in their march north- 8 Sept. 
westwards. Although any detachment from them would weaken 1914. 
the decisive enveloping attack which he meant to make from his 
northern flank, he ordered the 5th Division — the westernmost column 
whose head was about six miles north of La Ferte sous Jouarre when 
the order took effect — to turn towards the Ourcq, and the 6th 
Division, next to it, to follow a route which would bring it behind 
the centre of the battlefield. The Ourcq front, however, held fast, 
and it was not necessary to engage the 5th Division, which (except 
for " parts of two regiments which went up to the firing line ") 
remained in reserve behind the left flank, its move having been 
observed by British aviators, as we have seen. Equilibrium having 
been established on the Ourcq, Kluck might well look forward to a 
success there when the rest of the ///. Corps and the IX. Corps 

The situation on the Petit Morin and the Marne, according to 
the reports which had come in from General von der Marwitz during 
the night, appeared to indicate that assistance should be sent there ; 
at 8.15 A.M., therefore, Kluck ordered the IX. Corps to drop an in- 
fantry regiment and a field artillery brigade at Montreuil aux Lions 
(6 miles north-east of La Ferte sous Jouarre). News soon came in of 
the British attacks against the Petit Morin line, and air reports of the 
advance of three (of the six) British columns. The success of Kluck's 
plans depended on the line being held ; so at 10.20 a.m. he sent 
another order to the IX. Corps to send two brigades and two regi- 
ments of field artillery to hold the Marne from Nogent (6 miles below 
Chateau Thierry) to La Ferte, and to destroy all the bridges ; and 
he released the detachment ordered to Montreuil. He then pro- 
ceeded to La Ferte Milon, on his right wing, to organize the attack 
for next day, and whilst there was nearly captured by Cornulier- 
Luciniere's cavalry raid (Kluck, p. 118), which must have been an 
unpleasant surprise to him, and may have infiuenced his action next 
day. General von Quast, no doubt disliking being deprived of half 
his force, took upon himself the responsibility of sending only one 
brigade and one artillery regiment, instead of two, under Major- 
General von Kraewel, and he omitted to send an engineer company, 
so there were no explosives available to destroy the bridges. The 
remaining bridge at La Ferte had, however, been prepared for demoli- 
tion by the engineers of the 8th Division on the night of the 6th/7th, 
Kraewel's composite brigade arrived at Montreuil by 5.45 p.m., and, 
in view of the fatigue of the men, who had been continuously in 
action or marching since the morning of the 6th, he did not move 
them down to defend the Marne crossings. At La Ferte itself was 
the 2nd Cavalry Division, with one infantry and four Jdger battalions ; 
but along the course of the Marne upwards from this town there were 
no German troops, except stragglers of the ///. and IX. Corps. 
The /. Cavalry Corps, driven from the Petit Morin, had cleared away, 
the Guard Cavalry Division to the right flank of the Second Army 
behind the Dolloir, and the 5th Cavalry Division, well north of the 
Marne, broken into two parts, one part retiring to Marigny (9 miles 
N.N.E. of La Ferte) and the other to Domptin (5^ miles south-west 
of Chateau Thierry). From Chateau Thierry (inclusive) to La Ferte 
(exclusive) — 15 miles in an air line — opposite the left of Franchet 
d'Esperey's Army and the right and centre of the B.E.F., that is to 
say in the gap between the right of the Second Army and the left of 


the First Army, the passages of the Marne were abandoned by the 

The German Second Army had a day of varied fortunes on 
the 8th, which resulted in its pivoting on its centre. East of the 
Marshes of St. Gond, the Guard Corps, with the right half of the 
Third Army, made a successful early morning attack, driving Foch's 
troops back, and entering Fere Champenoise ; but after this effort 
it halted. The centre, the 14th and 20th Divisions, pushed over the 
western end of the marshes ; the 19th Division and A'. Reserve Corps 
held their line hardly troubled ; but at night the 13th Division, on 
the extreme right, fell back in panic, or was driven back, although 
the French make no claim to have done so. Summed up in Bulow's 
message to Kluck, the situation was " Right wing of Second Army 
" pulled back to Le Thoult [7^ miles east by south of Montmirail] — 
'' Margny [6 miles north-east of Montmirail]. i Guard Cavalry 
" Division held Dolloir until 7 p.m., is being driven back to area 
" around Conde en Brie [8 miles south-east of Chateau Thierry]. 
" 5th Cavalry Division driven north of the Marne." The right wing 
had, in fact, been rallied on the line of the railway running north 
from Montmirail, and then withdrawn further east. 
Sketch 16. The critical state of the battle had impressed itself deeply on 
General von Moltke at O.H.L. on the morning of the 8th (see Sketch 
16). More or less good news came from the First Army by wireless 
(received 3 a.m., but sent off at 4 p.m. the previous evening, a fact 
which exhibits the delays of the German communication system). 
In this Kluck said that he hoped to continue the attack next day 
" with prospects of success." At the same time Moltke heard that 
the Second Army had held its own on the 7th and would make a 
dawn attack with the bayonet, but Bulow had added " in conse- 
" sequence of heavy losses, the Second Army has only the fighting 
" power of three corps." At 8 a.m. a wireless communication be- 
tween the /. and II. Cavalry Corps headquarters was overheard at 
O.H.L. , in which the former said, " the Petit Morin position Biercy 
" Orly — Villeneuve broken through, /. Cavalry Corps goes slowly 
" behind the Dolloir." On hearing this, " it seemed to General von 
" Moltke that the danger of a break-through between the two 
" Armies of the right wing had come perilously nearer." He 
ordered all available troops of the IX. Reserve Corps (observing 
Antwerp) and of the VII. Reserve Corps (besieging Maubeuge) to 
be sent at once to St. Quentin, and portions of the XV. Corps (begin- 
ning to leave the Seventh Army in Alsace) to be sent along as they 
arrived ; but he issued no directions to the fighting Armies, except to 
the Sixth and Seventh, whose unsuccessful attempt to break through 
in Lorraine and cross the Moselle he stopped. He did not send a 
liaison officer to each Army of the right wing to find out exactly 
what was happening, or telephone to the Fifth and Fourth Armies, as 
he could have done. Instead he despatched Lieut.-Colonel Hentsch, 
whose previous visit to the Armies has been mentioned, to go to the 
Fifth, Fourth, Third, Second and First Armies in turn, in that order, 
a round trip of 400 miles ; and Colonel Hentsch proceeded not 
by aeroplane but by car, leaving Luxembourg about 10 a.m. He 

1 Lieut.-Colonel Hentsch said in his report on his trip (p. 1), that 
whilst he was at Second Army headquarters on the night of the 8th a 
report came in that " the right flank of the Army had been enveloped or 
" driven back, and must be withdrawn behind the Verdonelle." 


reached the first four of the Armies on the 8th, and reported that the 8 Sept. 
Fifth and Fourth Armies were in general holding their own, whilst 1914. 
the situation of the Third Army — divided into two distinct halves — 
was " thoroughly satisfactory." He spent the night at Billow's 
headquarters. As no action was taken as a result of his visit there 
until the 9th, the controversy about the instructions which he received, 
the way he carried them out, and the result, will be dealt with under 
that date. 



9th September 1914: The Passage of the Marne 
AND the Retreat of the Germans 

(Sketches B, 13 & 17 ; Maps 4, 25, 29 & 30) 

Sketches The orders issued by the British Commander-in-Chief 
13 & 17. on the evening of the 8th September directed the Army to 
25^&^2^'. continue its advance northward at 5 a.m., attacking the 
* enemy rear guards wherever met, the cavalry maintaining 
touch with the French Armies to right and left, as before.^ 
It had been expected that the Germans would offer stubborn 
resistance on the line of the Marne ; the great width of the 
river, the few bridges over it, the houses on its banks, and 
excellent artillery positions and observation on the high 
ground above presenting very favourable ground for a rear- 
guard action. The array of troops on the British front 
seemed to confirm that this was their intention. On the 
other hand, the evening reports of the Flying Corps showed 
that the idea might have been abandoned. Many columns 
had been seen moving northward in haste, and the bridges 
had not been destroyed, except those of La Ferte sous 
Jouarre, Sammeron (2 miles west of La Ferte), and Changis 
(3 miles west of Sammeron). The 11th Hussars (1st 
Cavalry Brigade), sent forward in the evening to reconnoitre 
the bridges at Pavent, Charly and Nogent, found all three 
barricaded and held, with only a few patrols south of the 
Marne, and arrangements were made to attack them at 
4 A.M. next morning. 

Early on the 9th September therefore the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade was pushed forward on Nogent, leaving the 2nd at 
Charly, and by 5.30 a.m. it was in possession of the bridge at 
Nogent, whilst the 4th Cavalry Brigade seized that at Azy 
further to the east and 3 miles below Chateau Thierry. The 

^ Appendix 38. 



two brigades then moved about three miles northward from 9 Sept. 
Nogent to Mont deBonneiltocoverthepassageof the infantry, i^i^- 
By 7.30 A.M. the Queen's, the leading battalion of the 3rd 
Brigade, the advanced guard of the 1st Division, had passed 
the Marne at Nogent and was crowning the heights north 
of the river. The 6th Brigade, with the XXXIV. Brigade 
R.F.A., the advanced guard of the 2nd Division, on reach- 
ing Charly, drove off a party of Germans who had evidently 
returned to demolish the bridge, but found a barricade on 
the bridge which took three-quarters of an hour to remove. 
By 8.15 A.M., however, the brigade had secured the high 
ground north of the river without fighting. By 10.15 a.m. 
the 3rd Brigade had pushed on to Beaurepaire Farm (2| 
miles north of Charly) without seeing a sign of the enemy. 
The 1st Cavalry Brigade had already made good the next 
ridge to the north, and the 3rd Brigade had advanced about 
another mile to Les Aulnois Bontemps, before the advanced 
guards received orders to stand fast. The Flying Corps had 
reported " large hostile forces " at 8.30 a.m., both halted 
and marching, north of Chateau Thierry, and the bridge 
there intact. A further report at 12.30 p.m., however, put 
the force halted about four miles north of the town at only 
a division, with a long column going north, and further 
small columns on roads to the east all going north. ^ About 
1| battalions were seen near Montreuil, where there was 
" artillery activity." Most of the machines were, however, 
employed to discover the position of the heads of the British 
columns, and what was happening on the British right and 
left. The nearest troops of the French Fifth Army were 
seen at 7 a.m. near Viels Maisons (10 miles south of Chateau 
Thierry), moving north-east, that is away from the B.E.F. 
On the Ourcq, the air reports indicated that the situation 
was much the same as on the previous day, with the French 
8th Division on the immediate left of the British moving 
away north-westwards. 

In view of the supposed large hostile forces north of 
Chateau Thierry, and the absence of support on the right 
from the French, the whole of the I. Corps was ordered by 
Sir Douglas Haig to halt until the situation could be cleared 
up ; such of the artillery of the 2nd Division as had not 
crossed the Marne was directed to remain in observation 

^ According to German accounts, there were no troops near Chateau 
Thierry except the 5tfi Cavalry Division, the two portions of which joined 
up in the course of the day and retired on Beuvardes (7^ miles north-east 
of Chateau Thierry). The columns seen must have been stragglers or 
transport, but at the time they were thought to be the III. or IX. Corps. 


on the south bank of the river, and the 5th Brigade to en- 
trench there. The latter part of the order, sent verbally 
by an officer, led to a misunderstanding ; for it was taken 
by Major-General Monro to mean that his division was to 
hold a position on the south bank, and he began withdraw- 
ing the troops who had crossed and sending back his bag- 
gage. Fortunately this was discovered by General Haig, 
who saw the transport retiring, before much time had been 
lost, and he directed the columns to close up on their heads 
north of the river. The rest of the Cavalry Division joined 
the 1st Cavalry Brigade to the left front of the 3rd Brigade 
early in the afternoon, and a few men of the German rear 
parties were cut off and captured. The remainder of the 
1st Division crossed the river at Nogent, and in due time 
the 2nd Division also, at Charly. But no further advance 
was made by the I. Corps until 3 p.m., after two aeroplanes 
sent to reconnoitre by General Haig had reported " all 
clear " on the I. Corps front, when, preceded by the cavalry, 
both divisions moved forward until their heads reached 
the vicinity of the Chateau Thierry — Montreuil road at Le 
Thiolet and Coupru respectively. Then, as no French 
troops had come up on the right, only a few cavalrymen 
had in fact crossed the Marne, and as the Sixth Army on 
the left was making no progress and had withdrawn the 
8th Division, the connecting link, north-westwards, Sir 
John French, who had motored up to see General Haig, 
instructed him to stop the advance. The 1st and 2nd 
Divisions therefore halted and billeted in depth along the 
roads on which they were marching, with the 1st and 2nd 
Cavalry Brigades in front of them, and the rest of the 
cavalry in rear. 

Sketches The II. Corps found the Marne bridges at Nanteuil and 
13 & 17. Saacy intact ; the 3rd Division crossed by the former, the 
25^& 4) ^^^ Division by the latter. Before 8 a.m. the vanguard of 
the 3rd Division, and about an hour later that of the 5th 
Division, which met with strong opposition, had established 
themselves on the heights of the northern bank, and the 
9th Brigade, which with a brigade of artillery formed 
the advanced guard of the 3rd Division, at once sent for- 
ward two battalions to Bezu les Guery, two and a half 
miles from the river. The vanguard (the Northumberland 
Fusiliers), pushing on for another mile to Ventelet Farm, 
found the ridge near it clear of the enemy. By 10.30 a.m. 
Br.-General Shaw had fixed his headquarters at Bezu : all 


seemed to be going well. On the left of the 3rd Division 9 Sept. 
also everything appeared at the outset to promise an easy i^^"** 
advance for the 5th Division to Montreuil (2 miles north- 
west of Bezu, on the Chateau Thierry — La Ferte sous 
Jouarre main road), at which point it would cut off the 
Germans who were defending the passage of the Marne 
about La Ferte. No sooner, however, did the vanguard 
(2/Manchester) of the 14th Brigade show itself about La 
Limon (1 mile north of Saacy) than it was greeted at various 
points by heavy shell fire from concealed batteries. 
Harassed by bursting shells on front and flank, the 14th 
Brigade now led by the 1/Duke of Cornwall's, with the 
65th (Howitzer) and the 80th Batteries, began its advance 
upon Montreuil. The direct road from Saacy along the 
bank of the northward bend of the Marne, via Mery, being 
too much exposed to the German fire, the brigade moved 
through the woods half a mile to the east, while the batteries 
unlimbered south of La Limon. The growth of small trees 
was so dense that it was extremely difficult for the men to 
keep touch and maintain direction, and consequently pro- 
gress was slow. In fact the 14th Brigade was swallowed 
up by the woods for more than an hour. 

The advanced guard of the 3rd Division, to the east of 
this attack, had not met with opposition ; but the main 
body had come under persistent shrapnel fire from a 
German battery,^ and Major-General Hamilton had moved 
it off the Nanteuil — Bezu road into the woods on its left. 
In order to deal with the German battery, which had been 
located in the Bois des Essertis west of Bezu, Br.-General 
Shaw sent two companies of the Lincolnshire through the 
woods to try and capture the guns. The men crept up 
unseen to within a hundred and fifty yards of them, and in 
a few minutes shot down the German gunners literally 
almost to a man. Dashing out of the thicket to secure the 
guns, however, they were fired upon first by the escort, 
that was on the opposite flank of the battery, with which 
they at once dealt, and then by the 65th (Howitzer) 
Battery. They were compelled again to seek cover, with 
a loss of four officers and some thirty men killed or wounded, 
and the guns were not captured until next morning. This 
unfortunate mistake arose from the 65th believing that 

^ No. 6 Battery of the 45th Field Artillery Regiment, according to its 
diary, which says the battery was heavily shelled. The other two batteries 
of tfie brigade liad suffered so iiiucli from shell fire that they had already 
been withdrawn. 


the German battery had been silenced by some other 
British artillery, and that the men of the Lincolnshire were 
German gunners returning to their abandoned guns. 

Just about this time — 11.30 a.m. — the Duke of Corn- 
wall's at the head of the 14th Brigade at last emerged from 
the woods, and were fired upon by German infantry in 
position to the south of Montreuil. Thereupon, the brigade 
was ordered to attack towards the north, on a front of 
two battalions, with the left flank on the road from Mery 
to Montreuil; while the 15th Brigade was directed by 5th 
Division headquarters to move round further to the east, 
by Bezu and Bois des Essertis, and attack Hill 189 (imme- 
diately to south-east of Montreuil) from the flank. The 
14th Brigade, with the 2/Manchester now on the right of 
the Duke of Cornwall's, meanwhile continued its advance, 
always slowly, owing to the density of the woods ; and, 
the Manchesters drifting to the right, the East Surrey 
were brought up to fill the gap. The leading companies 
of the D. C.L.I, now came under heavy fire from infantry 
entrenched on Hill 189, and from two batteries, which were 
still unsilenced, at La Sablonniere and Chamoust (south- 
west and north of Montreuil, respectively). Under this 
cross-fire of artillery, the Cornishmen, after struggling for a 
time to work forward, were counter-attacked and com- 
pelled to fall back, leaving a few prisoners behind them, 
and the 14th Brigade came to a dead stop. The Germans 
at 2 P.M. even launched a counter-attack against the left of 
its line, but the effort was at once smothered by British 
shrapnel. After more than an hour of deadlock, the Nor- 
folk and Dorsetshire of the 15th Brigade between 3 and 4 
P.M. came up to the western edge of the Bois des Essertis, 
on the flank of Hill 189, where they were abruptly checked 
by a violent fire from rifles and machine guns and from the 
battery at La Sablonniere. Unable to make progress, they 
stood fast, and engaged in a short-range fight with the 
German infantry, which was entrenched within a hundred 
and twenty yards of them. Forty-seven dead Germans 
were found next day in the trenches opposite to the Dorset- 
shire ; but the 15th Brigade needed the support of artillery, 
and the British batteries could find no positions from which 
to give it. Some time before — about 3 p.m. — two bat- 
talions of the 13th Infantry Brigade had been ordered to 
the left via Moitiebard (2 miles south of Montreuil) to dis- 
cover and, if possible, destroy the battery at Chamoust ; 
but it was not until 6 p.m. that an officer of artillery, by a 

Page 332, line 6 from bottom. Add footnote at end of line : 

" On the afternoon of the 8th, when the 1st Cavalry 
Division was about 4 miles from the Marne, the 1st Cavalry 
Brigade (Br. -General C. J. Briggs) was ordered to detail a 
regiment to reconnoitre the crossings at Pavent, Charly and 
Nogent, and, if possible, secure a passage over the river for 
the use of the division next morning. The 11th Hussars 
(Lieut. -Colonel T. T. Pitman) were selected and, moving by , 


personal reconnaissance, at last found the exact position 9 Sept. 
of the German guns. They were silenced within ten ^'•^^'^- 
minutes by the 37th (Howitzer) Battery ; but by that time 
the light was waning, and the best of the day was gone.^ 

The 3rd Division, when it found that neither the I. Corps 
on its right nor the 5th Division on its left, was coming 
up in line with it, after helping the 5th Division as already 
related, remained from the morning onwards with its head 
at Ventelet Farm on the Chateau Thierry — Montreuil 
road, which thus marked the limit of British progress in 
this quarter. 

Further to the west, the III. Corps was delayed by a Sketches 
most effective barrier. The enemy was holding the right ^ ^ Y' 
bank of the Marne at all likely points of passage, with 25 &^29. 
artillery near Caumont at the top of the big loop of the 
river enfilading the western reach of it nearly as far as La 
Ferte sous Jouarre, and with other guns north-west of the 
town. The only intact bridge was the railway viaduct half- 
way down the above-mentioned enfiladed reach of the 
river. The four service pontoons of the field companies 
of the one division at the disposal of the corps could only 
bridge 75 feet, and were obviously insufficient for crossing 
the Marne at any point in this section — for it was from 
70 to 90 yards wide and very deep — without the help of 
additional material, and there was none to be found ready 
for use except at La Ferte sous Jouarre. 

Pursuant to General Pulteney's orders, the 11th and 
12th Brigades advanced at 4.45 a.m. in two columns, with 
the intention of repairing the bridges in front of them, 
and if possible of crossing the river and establishing a 

^ The enemy at Montreuil was at first Kraewel's Composite Brigade, 
hastily formed on the 8th of two infantry regiments and six batteries of 
artillery from the two divisions of the IX. Corps (see Note at end of 
previous Chapter). General Kraewel's instructions were to hold the line 
of the Marne from Nogent to La Fert6 (actually the British front) and 
destroy the bridges (which he did not do), whilst the three cavalry divisions 
held the Petit Morin (which they had already abandoned). He slipped away 
at 8 P.M. on the 9th, leaving the guns of one battery behind him (" Militar 
Wochenblatt," Nos. 73 and 74 of 1920). 

In the course of the fight, Kraewel's brigade " was supported by the 
" 9th Cavalry Division, which attacked towards Montbertoin, and by the 
" leading troops of the Prussian 5th Division, which had been sent by 
" [First] Army Headquarters to reinforce it, and liad marched via Cocherel. 
(Lieut.-Colonel Miiller Loebnitz, formerly of the Great General Staff, in 
" Der Wendepunkt des Weltkrieges," p. 35.) 

Four Jdger battalions and " a detachment of the 3rd Division from 
Mary " (6 miles to the west of Montreuil) were also present, according to 
Kulil's " Marne," p. 207. 


from Charly. Patrols found all three bridges barricaded and 
' held, and only a few German patrols south of the river. 
Arrangements were made to attack Charly bridge at dawn, 
when, about 4.30 a.m., the 2nd Cavalry Brigade (Br.-General 
H. de B. de Lisle) arrived. At the same time Lieut.-Colonel 
Pitman heard from Br.-General Briggs that he intended 
crossing at Charly. He therefore handed the Charlv opera- 


bridgehead north of La Ferte. They seized the high 
ground at Tarterel, immediately to the east of La Ferte, 
so that artillery could be brought up to deal with the 
German guns and the portion of the town south of the 
river. The broken bridges at La Ferte were, however, 
found by the 11th Brigade to be unapproachable, the 
buildings adjacent to them on the northern bank of the 
river being full of German snipers and machine guns. 
Attempts to cross by boat further down were also un- 
successful. It was extremely difficult to tell which houses 
were occupied, and impossible to deal effectively with them, 
except by howitzer fire ; the greater part of the fore- 
noon was occupied with dropping shells on the most likely 
ones from Tarterel, and from Jouarre, south of La Ferte. 
The 12th Infantry Brigade, however, pushed two bat- 
talions up the left bank of the river into the loop between 
Chamigny and Luzancy, as there was a weir (actually a 
lock, barrage and weir nearly a hundred yards in total 
length) marked on the map near the former place. They 
found it, and succeeded by fire in silencing the defenders. 
Then the 2/Essex, led by Major F. W. Moffitt and followed 
by the 2/Lancashire Fusiliers, crossed by the weir, along 
which was a broken plank footway, in single file, only two 
men of the Essex being wounded by machine-gun fire 
during the passage. The Germans did not wait, and al- 
though the two battalions climbed up the slopes of the 
valley to the road which leads from La Ferte to Montreuil, 
the line of the enemy retreat, they reached it too late to 
intercept any German troops. Officers who took part in 
this extraordinary passage of a wide river in broad day- 
light in the face of an enemy can only explain it by the 
supposition that the Jdger defending the weir were too 
tired or dispirited to have heart to fight. The British 
were equally weary, and it was only that they were on 
the move forward which kept many of them from falling 

During this movement, shortly before noon, the British 
infantry was withdrawn from the southern half of La 
Ferte and the town was heavily bombarded, with the result 
that the Germans about 2.30 p.m. abandoned the direct 
defence of the bridges, which Royal Engineer officers were 

^ It may, however, be mentioned that Lieut. -Colonel Hentsch, the 
representative of O.H.L., who passed behind the front during the morning, 
found trains and wounded going back "' in wild haste " fearing to be cut 
off by English cavalry, and in one place " complete panic." (Hentsch's 
report to the C.G.S., p. 3.) 


then able to reconnoitre. But it was 4 p.m. or later before 9 Sept. 
any effectual repair work could be begun. However, the i'-^^'*- 
1/Ilifle Brigade followed the two battalions of the 12th 
Brigade across the weir, and the 2/Inniskilling Fusiliers 
crossed the river higher up by the railway viaduct which 
was still intact. They were shelled as they did so, but 
suffered no loss. The 1/East Lancashire and the 1 /Hamp- 
shire were ferried across in boats below La Ferte, and 
this tedious operation on a broad and rapid river was 
not completed until 9 p.m., by which time the Engineers 
had collected sufficient barrel piers, boats and planks 
to supplement the pontoons and begin the construction 
of a floating bridge. ^ When darkness fell on the 9th, six 
of the twelve battalions of the 4th Division were still on 
the south side of the river : the 10th Brigade at Grand 
Mont Menard (2 miles east of La Ferte), the King's Own 
(12th Brigade) at Luzancy, the Somerset Light Infantry 
(11th Brigade) at Les Abymes (just south of La Ferte). 
The 19th Brigade was between Jouarre and Signy Signets. 

The other divisions and the cavalry (less a brigade) were Sketches 
across the Marne. The positions of the Army at the end ^^^^ i^; 
of the day were as follows, extending from Chateau Thierry ^ g^Q^ ""^ 
(exclusive) through Bezu and La Ferte sous Jouarre to 
beyond Jouarre : 

Cavalry Division . . . Lucy le Bocage, Domptin. 
5th Cavalry Brigade . . La Baudiere (half a mile west 

of Domptin). 

I. Corps Le Thiolet, Mont de Bonneil, 

Domptin, Coupru. 

II. Corps Bezu, Crouttes, Caumont. 

3rd Cavalry Brigade . . Grand Mont Menard (south of 

the Marne). 

III. Corps Luzancy, Grand Mont Menard, 

Jouarre, Chamigny. 

At 1 P.M., on behalf of the British Commander-in-Chief, 
the French Mission at G.H.Q. had telephoned to General 
Joffre : " Our III. Corps is stopped in the environs of La 
" Ferte as the bridges are broken. The enemy is in force 
" on the line Chateau Thierry — Marigny. It is of the 
" utmost importance that the XVIII. Corps should come 
" to the help of our I. Corps in the environs of Chateau 
" Thierry." 

This message G.Q.G. at once telephoned on to General 

1 It was formed of 2 trestles, 4 pontoons, 4 barrel piers, 1 barge and 
2 boats, and completed at 7 a.m. on the 10th. 


Franchet d'Esperey, but the only result was that, towards 
5 P.M., the French 4th Cavalry Division arrived on the 
right of the I. Corps, and later an infantry brigade crossed 
at Azy, and formed an outpost line behind the cavalry, 
whilst Chateau Thierry was occupied about 5 p.m. by the 
10th Cavalry Division, subsequently joined by two infantry 
battalions. 1 

sketches The 9th September, though we now know that the 
[fofl Y* advance of the B.E.F. was the decisive factor in influencing 
the Germans to abandon the field of battle, ^ seemed at 
the time a disappointing day for the British, despite their 
passage of the Marne. The more so since General Mau- 
noury, having been hard pressed on his left and left flank 
throughout the 8th, had asked for a brisk attack against 
the left flank and rear of Kluck. Had the entire British 
line been able to come up level with the 9th Brigade 
when it reached the road from Chateau Thierry through 
Montreuil to Lizy sur Ourcq at 9 a.m., great results might 
have followed ; for Kluck's left was then well to the south 
of Lizy, and by a general advance Kraewel's force at 
Montreuil would have been swept away or surrounded. 
But the I. Corps, on the right, was halted for several 
hours on account of a misleading air report that there were 
large enemy forces north of Chateau Thierry, and the 
French on its right were too far in rear to give assistance in 
case of counter-attack ; the I